It’s 11:41 a.m. as I write this and I should be well awake by now… but forgive me if I’m a little groggy. I did not get enough sleep last night. A little too much coffee late in the evening along with staring at the screens of my television and iPhone before bed caused me to miss the mark on getting adequate sleep.
As someone who occasionally writes on work-life balance, a good night of rest is important to me in order to help me live out what I teach. That is, finding an acceptable and appropriate rhythm between my family life and my role as a college faculty member hinges, in part, on my ability to get adequate rest. And with my lack of sleep last night, I thought now would be a great time to remind us all (including myself!) that sleep is one of the key ingredients to helping us find an effective rhythm between work and life.
Not getting enough sleep can lead to many negative outcomes that in turn can make it hard to juggle work and life effectively. For example, lack of sleep is associated with increased stress levels and decreased decision-making ability. These effects could play out at work and in other areas of life. If we fail to get enough sleep, we may be more likely to make poor decisions at work. Perhaps not major poor decisions, but poor enough that it causes us to spend extra time in the office or bring work home that we had not planned to. And increased stress levels due to lack of sleep may lead to a negative attitude at work and home, further exacerbating any existing factors leading to our work-life imbalance.
While getting adequate sleep is a trendy topic, there is still a loud voice out there telling us that working hard and foregoing sleep is the key to success. One example of this is Super Bowl-winning quarterback Russell Wilson, who in the past used the catchphrase “No Time To Sleep” (and the accompanying hashtag #notimetosleep). Wilson noted “I try not to get much sleep during the week. I may try to get five or six hours [per night].” This strategy might work for premier athletes like Wilson, but most of us need closer to 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
That said, the voices trying to persuade us to get more sleep are getting louder and louder. Researchers at The Energy Project and advocates for getting enough sleep have a powerful message regarding sleep, telling us that “sleep is more important than food” and “naps are a powerful source of competitive advantage.” And ultra-successful businesswoman Arianna Huffington has written an entire book on the importance of sleep, complete with a sleep quality assessment.
So what can we do to get closer to the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep each night? Try these five strategies to get more sleep:
- Have a clear bedtime routine just like we do with babies—your brain picks up that this is what happens before sleep, and gains efficiency once in bed. This routine should include turning off screens 30-45 minutes prior to getting into bed (I know, that can be incredibly hard to do).
- Write down anything on your mind prior to bed—like a “to do” list—so that you can get thoughts onto paper and off your mind.
- Assess which sleep position is best for you (check out this article for an overview of the pros/cons of each sleeping position).
- Make sure to eliminate all sources of light (check out this video for a simple light test).
- Move more during the day—it reduces cortisol and increases serotonin, two ingredients in promoting sleep (cortisol causes insomnia, serotonin is a sleep regulator). A research study of over 3,000 adults supports the exercise-sleep connection.
Here’s to a better night’s sleep and more effective work-life balance.