Improve Sleep Habits to Improve Productivity

You’ve heard this a thousand times or more: if you get more sleep, you’ll be healthier and happier. The topic has been beaten into the ground it’s discussed so much. And yet, is your sleep schedule optimal? I bet you still struggle with maintaining a routine and a schedule, and you often wake up ill prepared for the long day ahead of you.

I’ve taken a look at the top tips for improving your sleeping habits, and I’ve found the tips can fall into two categories: how to get more sleep and how to get better sleep. Increasing both the quantity and quality of your sleep will directly affect your productivity during the day.

How do I get better sleep?

The most crucial aspect to improve about your sleep schedule is how you fall asleep. For years we’ve heard that using screens (in the form of TVs, laptops, tablets, and smartphones) is detrimental to a sound night’s rest. This is not because of the stimulation from playing games or watching TV, but because of the abnormal light source. Screens are too bright—reminiscent of daytime light—and they confuse your eyes and brain into thinking it’s still day. Experts suggest turning off screens an hour before you go to bed so that your eyes can adjust and tell your brain to start producing melatonin, a hormone that helps you sleep.

During the night, there are sleep positions that will lull you deeper into your REM cycle and positions that will just make you wake up with a sore neck and a headache, discouraging any productivity throughout the day. Most chiropractors suggest using a small pillow between your knees if you sleep on your side. Sleeping on your back is also good for your alignment. Sleeping on your stomach causes the most problems with your spine, often giving you a nice headache when you get up.

How you wake up in the morning can affect your perception of your night’s sleep. When you are jarred awake by a blaring alarm clock, your body reacts with surprise, urgency, and well, for me, hostility. If you find you are struggling to wake up in the morning without wanting to tear your hair out, try a few tactics to ease your mind and body into the day: a long shower, a favorite playlist, the news. Your mind will start being more productive earlier in the day if you aren’t focused on being angry just because you’re awake.

How do I get more sleep?

“One of the biggest reasons many of us suffer from insomnia and difficulty getting a good night’s rest is our inability to relax and turn our brains off when we put our heads down for the night.” Alan Henry at LifeHacker got it right—if you can’t relax, you waste a lot of time just trying to fall asleep. Developing a consistent evening routine can help with the transition from the craziness of the day to the quiet of the night. This includes dimming the lights, relaxing, nighttime hygiene, etc.

There are many recommendations about what to eat and what to avoid at certain times of the day in order to increase your hours of sleep. Caffeine is generally discouraged anytime after dinner. Alcohol as well. In fact, most experts suggest avoiding any kind of food or drink within a few hours of falling asleep. Monitor your eating habits if you’re having trouble sleeping. You might find the answer in what and when you eat.

Daily exercise definitely increases the amount of sleep you get. When you should exercise is ultimately up to you—some people find that exercising in the evenings helps them calm down and de-stress. Mornings seem to be better for getting your day started and ensuring you use those endorphins in more productive ways; you don’t want to be on too much of a runner’s high as you get ready for bed.

If you’re feeling sluggish, try to improve some of these habits to boost the quality of your slumber. Be sure you’re getting the sleep you need; you may need to balance the time you need to complete projects against the amount of sleep you need to function at your best.

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