Sleep is important to your health, overall wellbeing and performance and safety at work. If you do not get enough sleep, your performance and health will likely suffer for it.
While failing to get enough sleep a night or two is not much of a problem, consistently failing to get a good sleep is. After all, sleep can heavily influence brain activity, physical stamina and mental health. Failing to get enough sleep has been linked to a number of chronic illnesses, including heart disease, kidney disease, obesity and depression.
If you are having trouble falling to sleep or staying asleep each night, then it is important to review your current sleeping patterns and make necessary changes that will improve your quality and length of sleep. In the sections below, you will learn about the benefits of sleep as well as how you can obtain the perfect sleep schedule.
The Importance of Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
Sleep plays a crucial role in your overall health, alertness, safety, production and quality of life. When you fail to get enough sleep, your body will suffer, and you will likely struggle at work too. Sleep deficiency can wreak serious havoc, not only on your career, but on your body.
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You could be at an increased risk for numerous chronic health ailments as well as think, act, learn and get along with others in a poorer manner. This can, in turn, affect other areas of your life, including your job.
Sleep Promotes Brain Function and Mental Health
Getting proper and restful sleep allows your brain to prepare for the next day, making sleep very important to brain function. When you are resting, your brain will form new pathways, which can help you to learn and remember information the following day. Getting a good night’s sleep can also boost creativity, problem-solving skills, attentiveness and aid in decision making.
Therefore, if you are not getting enough sleep, all of those important brain functions will suffer for it. Furthermore, sleep deprivation can take a toll on your mental health as it has been linked to risk-taking behavior, depression and suicidal thoughts or behavior.
The Importance of Sleep on Your Physical Health
Just how important is sleep to your health? Failing to get enough sleep on a consistent basis can lead to a higher risk for numerous chronic illnesses, including:
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
- High blood pressure
Sleep allows you to balance the various hormones in your body, including the ones that make you feel hungry or full. Therefore, if you are lacking sleep, you will likely feel hungrier. Your immune system will suffer from sleep deprivation, which can make you more likely to become ill from the most common infections and viruses.
Sleep and Work Performance and Safety
Studies show that a loss of one to two hours per night alone can sharply hamper productivity, alertness, reaction take and overall function. This can severely affect work performance as you will be more likely to finish tasks slower while making more mistakes.
Due to your loss of reaction time and alertness, you are also at far higher risk of any safety-related incident. Depending on where you work, safety may be a huge part of your job in order to avoid injuring yourself or others.
Even driving to work can become a greater risk. Some studies have shown that sleep deprivation can hamper your ability to drive just as much as intoxication. In fact, it is estimated that there are around 100,000 car accidents caused by tired drivers each year, resulting in an estimated 1,500 deaths.
Stick to a Sleep Routine Whenever Possible
If possible, it is strongly recommended that you begin to create a routine before bed that you can stick to. Go to bed at the same time every night and try to perform the same activities each night before bed, such as reading a book, brushing your teeth, listening to calming music or taking a bath. Having the same routine activities before bed can actually help your body recognize that it is time to go to bed.
This can be difficult, particularly if you have to work late sometimes or have a revolving shift. And yet, it is important that you try your best to go to bed at the same time each night, even if that means that you sleep shortly after arriving home after work every now and then.
Sleep in a Dark, Cool Place
Light tells your body’s internal clock when it is time to rise for the day and the dark does the opposite. When you are getting ready for bed or performing your evening routine, it is recommended that you do so in dim lighting, when possible, as this can help cue your body for sleep.
Try to keep the room you will be sleeping in cool. Run the air conditioning, if you have one. Studies have shown that the body actually needs to drop its core temperature in order to sleep.
In fact, it is suggested that you sleep in a bedroom that is between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. Not only can this help you fall asleep, but doing so can reduce the odds of you waking in the middle of the night.
Avoid Distractions and Put Your Cell Phone Away
It is strongly recommended that you avoid electronics at least an hour before going to bed. This includes e-readers, cellphones, TVs and any other devices that give off a blue light.
As a general rule, blue lights can cause your brain to be too alert for sleeping, thus adding to your sleep deprivation. When you go to bed, be sure to put your cell phone on silent or do not disturb in order to avoid receiving any notifications that may alert you and disrupt your ability to fall or stay asleep.
Commit to an Exercise Routine
Studies have shown that people who work out at least 150 minutes each week sleep better throughout the week and display an improved sense of alertness during the daytime. Exercise, like sleep, is also very important to the body and is not something that should be engaged in only when you are trying to lose weight.
There are numerous health benefits related to having a steady exercise routine. Moreover, it is worth knowing that the time of day that you exercise can also make a difference in your quality of sleep. For example, a high-intensity cardio workout that is performed in the evening can actually disrupt your sleep.
Therefore, it is recommended that you exercise during the day or early afternoon in order to help you get the optimal amount of sleep at night. However, some forms of light exercise are calming and can actually help you sleep. If you are having trouble falling asleep, consider a stretching routine before bed.
Monitor Your Eating Habits
Nearly every organ in your body that plays a role in digestion has its own internal clock. For this reason, doctors recommend that you avoid eating large quantities of food, carbs, calories and/or fat in the evening.
In general, a large late-night meal can throw off your body’s digestive rhythm, which can then affect your sleep. Furthermore, eating late can cause weight gain, as your body will store more fat later in the day.
Avoid Napping or Keep it Short
While most people enjoy napping, particularly during a stressful day, it is important to limit the amount of naps that you take. This is particularly true if you are having trouble sleeping throughout the night or falling asleep. If you do nap, it is important to keep it short in order to avoid having a harder time sleeping at night.
If you do nap, studies show that the optimal length for a nap is around 20 minutes. Overall, these naps will give you a little bit of energy without disrupting your sleep later on in the evening.
As a general rule, you should not feel groggy after a short nap. The grogginess that follows an afternoon nap is often a sign that you slept too deeply or for too long.
Additional Tips for Third Shift Workers
If you work overnight, you may struggle with falling asleep right away and remaining asleep. This is due to the fact that, as mentioned previously, your body has an internal clock that is affected by light. Therefore, if you are an overnight worker, it is important to invest in sunglasses.
It is recommended that you wear sunglasses when you are leaving work in the morning and that you keep them on until you get inside. This will help you to limit your light exposure and increase your odds of falling asleep quickly and getting the rest that you need.
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