We’re supposed to get a good night’s sleep to feel great all day? Talk about things we know we’re supposed to do that are impossible! The problem isn’t wanting to get a good night’s sleep, it’s actually making it happen. And between work, kids, and, let’s face it, your late-night favourite TV shows, logging in eight uninterrupted hours can feel like the joke of the year. As compiled from Prevention magazine, here’s a list of tips to make the most of what you’ve got.
Don’t delay the inevitable
Remember how you spent all night waking up, drifting off, then waking up again? Doing that to yourself come morning via the snooze button just isn’t smart. Research shows snooze-button sleep is fragmented sleep (no joke!), and fragmented sleep is not restorative sleep. It’s a good rule of thumb for any morning — set your alarm for the actual time you need to wake up, says Alice Doe, a sleep medicine specialist at Borgess Medical Centre in Kalamazoo, MI, and then actually get up. Snoozing might also make the process of waking up physically take longer. Getting the gears turning, like increasing blood flow to the brain, takes some time, but snoozing tells your body it’s not actually go-time yet and can delay those processes.
Good night's sleep strengthens memory
Give caffeine a chance
Experts typically stick to an upper limit of about 400 milligrams of caffeine a day, or roughly four cups of coffee. On your most sleep-deprived day, if you’re not careful, you could hit that benchmark by 11 am. Worry not, we’ve all been there, but too much coffee can leave you with headaches, heart palpitations, and a serious case of the jitters, Doe says. Keep in mind it takes about half an hour for caffeine to kick in; so, pace yourself throughout the morning and have a cup around noon or 1 pm, she advises. After that, stick to decaf. “Caffeine takes a long time to be eliminated from your body; so, I say no caffeine seven to eight hours before bedtime,” Doe shares.
Whatever happens — never ever underestimate the power of positive thinking. Yes, you didn’t get enough sleep. No, that doesn’t guarantee today will be a wash. Put on your favourite kurta, that special-occasions-only piece of jewellery, a fun lip colour — something for you to feel good about, Doe says, then use it to keep up the sunny attitude throughout the day. “Try not to think too much about the sleepless night or blame it for everything that happens during the day,” she says. “In time, that can create a negative association that will result in other sleepless nights.” It’s going to be a challenge, she says, but try to make this a ‘glass half full’ kind of day. It might not make you feel more awake, but research suggests that positive thinking can help you cope with stressful situations — such as the horror of a sleep-deprived day!
Tackle tough projects first
Getting through any actual work may be the hardest part of today, aside from resisting the temptation to hit the snooze option. Budget your energy and get the big stuff out of the way early. Research suggests that you’ve got a two-hour window when you’ll be at your best, starting one hour after you wake up, Doe says. If you woke up at 7am, expect to shine between 8am and 10am. She suggests tabling any major decisions, whether they’re personal or professional, for a more well-rested day. “If you really can’t avoid a meeting, try to get some exercise right beforehand so you can concentrate better,” she recommends. Later in the day, cross off some of those mundane tasks on your to-do list you’ve been putting off forever.
Sit up straight
Yes, you heard that right! Research conducted in 2012 involved an experiment that asked 110 college students to rate their energy levels before and after walking slouched over for a few paces or doing a few minutes of skipping. After slouching, they rated their energy levels significantly lower than after skipping. We’re not saying you should skip to your 5 o’clock meeting, but make sure you check your posture while you sit there spacing out. Trust me, it’ll have a huge impact on your productivity.
Keep your phone away
With your already-impaired attention and focus, you really don’t need any other distractions. If you want to stay productive at work, turn off your email notifications and power down your phone, or at least get it out of your direct line of sight. “Your concentration can be so decreased that your concept of time goes away,” shares Doe. You might think you’ve spent just a quick second scrolling through your Facebook feed when suddenly half an hour’s flown by. “It’s best to stay on task and then take more breaks to go for a quick walk,” she says. Yes, bathroom breaks do count!
Published in The Express Tribune, April 15th, 2016.
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