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As a nation, we’re dealing with a serious epidemic that influences everything from health to careers. It’s probably something you’ve taken for granted throughout your life.
I’m talking about sleep. The Centers for Disease Control found that one in three adults doesn’t get enough sleep. While this varies by geography, ethnicity, employment, and marital status, it’s normal for millions of people to get less than seven hours of sleep per night. What’s preventing so many of us from getting our needed ZZZs?
A variety of factors play a role, including medications, illness, and stress. Some, such as Consumer Reports, believe that because we’re putting in more hours at work, we have less time to sleep. After all, we still have to take care of our responsibilities outside of work. That’s not getting into the time we spend on electronic devices for either entertainment or checking work-related emails.
In short, we’re sabotaging our own efforts to be well-rested.
Working Our Way to Exhaustion
But there’s one common theme that’s keeping us up at night: work. We’re spending more time in the workplace; when we’re not at the office, we’re expected to be available 24/7. As such, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that 40% of professionals lose sleep over work — and this figure sits at 60% for people between the ages of 18 and 34.
“If you’re not sleeping, you’re going to have lower productivity, health issues and work-life balance issues,” Bill Driscoll, district president of Accountemps, told CNBC.
If you believe you fall into this camp, there’s a silver lining: There are ways to sleep more soundly at night.
1. Focus on what you’ll do instead.
“Many people fail to change their behavior because they focus on what they are not going to do rather than on actions they will take instead,” writes Art Markman in the Harvard Business Review. “Setting the goal not to work (or think about work) when you are away from the office starts with the presumption that you will stop yourself every time you are tempted to do something work-related.”
Markman says that these negative goals, “where you focus on actions you will no longer take,” fail for two reasons. “First, your habit system only learns a new habit when you perform an action, not when you don’t. So you cannot create a habit to avoid an action,” he says.
The second reason is that when negative goals have been set, “you have to constantly be vigilant about your behavior.” Otherwise, Markman says, you’ll end up doing the exact thing you were trying to avoid.”
In other words, if you want to stop worrying about work, you need to focus on something else. This varies from person to person, but it starts with making a plan for what you want to do outside of work, like taking a class, volunteering, or hitting the gym. Doing so, Markman explains, “will limit the time you have for work, and replace work with other pursuits.”
What about those moments when intrusive thoughts regarding work reappear? Always have a plan ready to occupy your mind, such as reading or talking to your spouse or a friend. When that doesn’t do the job, take 10 minutes to write down what’s bothering you so you can come back to it later. Sometimes, the simple act of writing a worry down both defuses it and enables your brain to work on it in the background.
Just make sure you also develop a long-term plan for overcoming the tasks that are stressing you out. Research has found that people are able to detach from work when they develop plans that pinpoint where, when, and how tasks will be completed. In other words, schedule time to take care of the problem later, and you’ll be able to relax when it’s not work time.
2. Create transition rituals.
“Everyone complains about commuting, but it serves a purpose: creating space between ‘work’ and ‘home,” Laura Vanderkam writes in Fast Company. “Use your trip home to ease into not-working mode by listening to or reading something light.”
This is also possible if you work from home. For example, when you “clock out” for the day, take a walk around the block to signal that you’re changing over from work to home.
Exercise isn’t just beneficial for your physical health; it also helps reduce stress and anxiety. Best of all, physical activity can help improve your sleep. It’s recommended that you get 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, such as cycling, swimming, or walking. If time is a concern, consider investing in a standing desk or holding walking meetings.
4. Plan a vacation.
Numerous studies show that taking a vacation is good for both your mental and physical health. Vacations can reduce stress, prevent heart disease, boost productivity, and aid in sleep. Even the act of planning a vacation is beneficial; anticipation is the happiest part of the trip.
Worried things will fall apart in your absence? Figure out what to delegate or what to wrap up in advance so you know how to keep things running smoothly when you go on vacation. Having a plan can not only give you peace of mind, but it can also empower your teammates to gain new skills or take on more visible responsibilities.
5. Set boundaries.
This will take a lot of self-discipline, but it’s in your own best interests. When you’re “off the clock,” don’t spend time on any work-related activities. For example, when you’re home for the night, turn off your work email notifications. Although we’re expected to be plugged in all the time, you’re not required to spend time working during your off-hours. And when you address non-urgent matters at all hours, you set a precedent you won’t want to maintain.
If you’re in the position to do so, make your work hours clearly known to colleagues and customers so they know when you’re available and when you’re not. Sharing your calendar is a simple way to achieve this.
6. Create a relaxing bedtime routine.
Developing a routine before bed will not only help relax your mind, but it will also improve your sleep. Ideas for your bedtime ritual could include taking a warm shower, meditating, journaling, or spending time with your family.
Most importantly, stop looking at your phone, tablet, or television 60 to 90 minutes before bed. The blue light isn’t great for your eyes or your sleep.
While everyone wants to find success at work, nobody needs to sacrifice his well-being outside of work to do so. Sleep re-energizes you, resets your brain, and works as a stress buster itself: As they say, everything looks better after a good night’s rest. Rather than prioritize work over sleep, give yourself a break. It may be just what you need to perform at the level you want.
John Hall is the co-founder and president of Calendar, a time management app, and the co-founder of Influence & Co., a content marketing agency. He is also the author of the best-selling book “Top of Mind.” You can sign up for Calendar here.
July 7, 2019 at 07:06AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs