If someone were to ask you what you think the secret to success is, what would you say? You might list education, hard work, determination, maybe a good network of contacts. Any of those factors can play a big role in reaching your goals and being more successful in your career. But you won't get anywhere without knowing the best sleep tips out there.
It’s true: Getting enough sleep improves your chances of becoming a superstar at work and helps you manage your money better—not to mention it keeps you healthy so you aren’t shelling out thousands of dollars in healthcare costs. So while you might think that burning the midnight oil and showing up at the office hours before everyone else is a surefire way to get ahead, you might want to reevaluate your strategy.
How Sleep Influences Success
Think about how you feel when you’re overtired. You’re probably unmotivated and cranky, and even the simplest tasks seem monumental. You might try to perk up with a cup of coffee or sugary soda, which gives you a momentary boost of energy, but once it wears off, you feel even worse. Not to mention that it's not good for your long-term health. As the workweek goes by, every day gets harder to manage until Friday night comes around and you don’t want to do anything but veg out on the couch until Sunday.
Consistently not getting enough sleep isn’t doing you any favors when it comes to your career—and it may even be holding you back. According to research by the Cleveland Clinic, getting as few as 90 minutes less than the recommended amount of sleep can have significant impacts on your ability to learn, your memory, your mental alertness, mood, and decision making. Sleep deprivation makes it more likely that you will have a car accident, and it makes your relationships suffer, both at work and at home. Ultimately, not getting enough sleep is detrimental to every aspect of your life.
Therefore, if you want to move forward and achieve your goals, you need to focus on getting enough sleep—every single night. Here are some top sleep tips to help you do that.
8 Sleep Tips for More Success
1. Prioritize Sleep
It sounds like a no-brainer now that you understand just how much sleep deprivation costs and the effects it can have on your productivity, creativity, and learning. But the first thing you need to do to improve your chances of success is to make sleep a priority. That means setting a strict bedtime and sticking with it, no matter how much you want to watch just one more episode or keep stalking your ex’s new girlfriend on Instagram (we all do it). Your sleep is much more important, and when you get in the habit of getting 8-10 hours of restful sleep every night, you will notice a big difference in your mood, energy levels, and your performance at work.
Making sleep a priority is more than just going to bed on time, though. It's also about creating the right environment for sleep. If you’re still sleeping on the same mattress you had in high school, invest in a newer, more comfortable one. Turn your bedroom into a sleep sanctuary. This might include splurging on those silky soft Egyptian cotton sheets or a new cozy blanket, a white noise machine, an amazing mattress, or blackout curtains for your windows. Your room should be cool, dark, and quiet, so do what you need to do to make that happen.
Oh, and if your room is a mess, with clothes everywhere and piles of clutter? Spend a weekend afternoon cleaning up. Research shows you sleep better in a well-organized, uncluttered space. As a bonus, you might find those shoes you’ve been looking for for months now (we all do this, too).
2. Turn Off Devices
It may be challenging (see above re: Netflix marathons and endless social scrolling) but it’s vital that you turn off your phone, TV, tablet, or computer at least an hour before you hit the sack. Electronic devices emit blue light that mimics daylight, tricking your brain into thinking it’s daytime. Lying in the dark scrolling through your phone is only going to keep you awake, and not only because you’re invested in some pointless online argument.
Although most devices have nighttime or dark modes that reduce the amount of blue light they emit, it’s much better for your sleep if you simply put them away before you go to bed. And assuming you don't work for Miranda Priestley, there’s likely no reason for you to be available at all hours of the night. Work emails and messages can wait until the morning.
3. Sleep On It
By now, you might be hyperventilating at the prospect of not immediately responding to work messages, but there’s another good reason that you should put your phone away at bedtime if you want to be more successful at work: Getting a good night’s rest can actually help you be a better problem solver.
When you’re asleep, your brain is busy processing all of the new information you've learned throughout the day and making connections with your existing memories. However, the brain isn’t just a series of filing cabinets where memories and ideas are filed with similar ones, separated from everything else. Rather, during the REM stage of sleep, your brain is making all sorts of connections between seemingly unrelated bits of information. These connections can help you solve problems and come up with more creative ideas that you might not have otherwise considered.
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For example, perhaps you are trying to develop a new logo for a client, but nothing seems to click. But one day, a colleague comes to work wearing a blouse with a unique pattern. While you are asleep, your brain might combine your need to develop a new design with a snippet from that pattern—and you wake up inspired, with a fresh idea for the project.
The whole notion that “it came to me in a dream” isn’t all that uncommon, nor is it a wild idea. Some of the greatest inventions and advancements in history were inspired by dreams. Therefore, if you are struggling with a work problem, there’s some wisdom in the idea of sleeping on it. Instead of staying up all night trying to come up with ideas, review your information before bed, and then let your brain handle the rest in dreamland.
4. Skip the Snooze Button
When the alarm goes off in the morning, do you jump out of bed ready to face the day, or hit the snooze button several times trying to get just a few more minutes of rest? Or do you set multiple alarms in 10-minute increments to coax yourself out of bed? Either way, you aren’t doing yourself any favors.
When you hit snooze, you might think you’re giving yourself an extra ten (or 20 or 30 or 45) minutes of rest, but you’re not. Any sleep that you get during that short period, which is continually interrupted by the alarm, isn’t restorative sleep. That’s because the later stages of sleep, right before you wake up, are the REM or dream stages of sleep. You’ve probably noticed that your alarm often goes off right in the middle of a dream, and this is why: You are in the last, and most restorative, stage of sleep at that point.
Waking up naturally without an alarm is best. During the REM stage you’re more likely to have a fight-or-flight response to the alarm which raises your heart rate and blood pressure. That’s not always realistic, though, especially when you are sleep deprived.
If you need an alarm to wake up, resist the urge to hit the snooze button and get out of bed immediately, no matter how groggy you still feel. Take those extra few minutes to do some energizing stretches, open the curtains to let in some natural light, and take your time getting ready and eating a healthy breakfast. You’ll arrive at work less stressed and be more energetic throughout the day.
If getting up in the morning is an ongoing challenge, you may have a sleep disorder and should talk to your doctor about it. Keep in mind that you can become conditioned to repeatedly hit snooze, so it might take some time to break the habit, but when you do, you’ll feel better.
5. Go Outside
Want to get better sleep? Get outdoors. No, you don’t need to pitch a tent and throw down a sleeping bag in the backyard, but exposure to natural light is vital to maintaining a healthy sleep-wake cycle. Light helps regulate your Circadian rhythms, which essentially tell you to sleep when it’s dark and be awake when it’s light. If you spend all your time indoors or only see the sun for a few minutes on the way to work in the morning, you risk disrupting these rhythms and will have trouble sleeping.
To make sure you get enough light in your life, open your curtains when you wake up in the morning. Consider enjoying your coffee outside if you can, or walk or bike to work to get some exercise and sunshine. During the day, take a walk during your break, or have outdoor walking meetings so everyone can benefit from some sunshine, fresh air, and a change of scenery. Not only will you sleep better and your colleagues appreciate the time away from their desks, but everyone can benefit from the increased energy and spirit-lifting benefits of a few minutes outdoors.
6. Put Down the Caffeine
Maintaining a healthy diet—including limiting your caffeine intake—is vital to getting enough sleep. Caffeine affects your body in multiple ways, not the least of which is insomnia. You might turn to caffeine as a way to stay awake or get energy, but eventually, it can be too much of a good thing. Not too mention, overloading on coffee, soda, energy drinks, and other sources of caffeine can cause anxiety, digestive issues, high blood pressure, rapid heart rate, and fatigue. All of this affects your performance at work and cause overall health issues.
Therefore, instead of downing multiple cups of joe throughout the day, try to keep your caffeine intake to a minimum. Light to moderate caffeine consumption doesn’t appear to have too many detrimental effects, so grabbing a latte on the way to work probably won’t hurt you. But to maintain a healthy sleep schedule, avoid caffeine after 3 p.m. It might be uncomfortable at first, but as you adjust to less caffeine, you’ll sleep better and have more energy to tackle your day.
7. Discover the Power of Naps
When you’re trying to get ahead at work, the last thing you want to do is get caught sleeping at your desk. But there is increasing evidence that letting employees nap at work is actually a boost to productivity.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you can curl up on the break room sofa with a pillow and blanket and zonk out for the afternoon. But a 10-15 minute power nap in an empty office or conference room can do wonders for your mood, energy, and productivity for the rest of the day. Just giving your brain a chance to rest and recharge can help you feel less overwhelmed and ready to tackle any challenges you face. Just be sure that you don’t sleep longer than 20 minutes or so, or you risk waking up groggy and disoriented.
8. Talk With Your Doctor
Finally, if you struggle to sleep no matter what you do, or you wake up feeling tired and groggy despite getting plenty of sleep, talk with your doctor and get help. You may be dealing with a sleep disorder like sleep apnea, or need some help dealing with issues like anxiety or depression that are keeping you awake. Walking around constantly sleep deprived isn’t going to put you in a position to achieve your goals, so get help and get the rest you need to be the boss babe you know you are.
Embrace These Sleep Tips
You probably read articles all the time about how just a few simple changes to your sleep schedule can transform your life. At this point, you might be completely over it. But trust me, following these eight expert sleep tips will absolutely change the quality of your rest.
I challenge you to adopt just one of these changes this week and see the impact it makes. Once you're bought in, come on back to learn more about what you should be doing to take care of yourself.
Want to Learn More?
Sleep is so important that this isn't the first time we've talked about it here at Miss Millennia. Check out some of our other articles about why you need to make sleep a top priority.