It isn’t that we don’t know that being well-rested is essential; we just tend to deem it less important compared to our other priorities. Whether it’s because of a crazy workload or having a full plate of responsibilities besides work, sacrificing sleep seems to have become a normalised aspect of our daily routines.
Wakefield Research’s 2018 study of 12 countries found that Singapore is the second-most sleep-deprived nation in the world. Additionally, 62% of Singaporeans aged 18 years and older say that they don’t get enough sleep.
According to sleep expert Michael Walker, sleep is the foundation upon which good health rests. Your healthy diets and regular exercise routines are far less effective when you aren’t sleeping the recommended 7-9 hours daily.
So fixing your poor sleep habits isn’t going to solve all your problems, but it is a good place to start. Here are a few pointers on how to do just that.
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So many of us consider sleep a luxury we can’t afford. We choose to get by on fewer hours of sleep because we think it helps us fit more things into our day, thus increasing our productivity and performance.
Indeed, the nature of modern lifestyles (along with the demands of work) does necessitate the odd all-nighter or two. Making a regular practice of this, though, is especially harmful to our productivity and general health. Sleep deprivation doesn’t make us more productive; it diminishes it.
Just look at how professional athletes calibrate their minds and bodies. They don’t cram their days with as much training as possible. Instead, they fit in a few solid hours of focused practice, then make sure that they have a good sleep regimen. Roger Federer and LeBron James, for example, ensure that they sleep 10-12 hours a day.
The reason for this is that sleep is the ultimate performance-enhancing drug. It’s the rent you pay for being able to focus intensely while you’re awake. Cal Newport, New York Times bestselling author of “Deep Focus: Rules For Focused Success In A Distracted World” concurs.
In his book, he writes that the key to higher work performance is to put in a dedicated number of hours a day in deep focus. This is what differentiates high achievers from others; deep focus enables them to produce a more substantial amount of high-quality work in a shorter amount of time. Additionally, it also helps them to learn new skills faster than others.
The catch is that for our bodies to be able to go into deep focus, we need to have consistently high attentional resources. Without sufficient rest, we’ll have more difficulty focusing. This is what reduces our performance and productivity: failing to get enough sleep.
The same Wakefield Research study cited earlier also found that 8 in 10 Singaporeans have a regular practice of sleeping in on the weekends. The logic is that we can use the weekends to compensate for lost sleep on weekdays. To us, what we perceive to be productivity gains during the weekdays justifies this strategy. In other words, we treat our sleep like a credit system that we can pay off as soon as we’re able to.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. According to Walker, if you’ve had a sleepless night and try to compensate for it by sleeping in for the next one or two nights, it’s not going to get you back the eight hours of sleep you’ve lost.
Furthermore, when you sleep in only on the weekends, your body has a harder time getting up at the regular weekday hour on Monday. Since you’ve been waking up at noon on Saturday and Sunday, your body expects you to do the same on Monday. It’s no wonder that your Monday blues are amplified, then, with the extra grogginess and exhaustion that this sleep habit induces.
It’s far more beneficial to ensure that you have a consistent and regular sleeping schedule regardless of whether it’s the weekend or not.
One of the worst sleep habits you could have is to sleep with your phone next to you. If you had a TV, a few newspapers, several photo albums, a pile of books, some mailboxes, and a video game machine all within arm’s length of your bed, you wouldn’t want to go to bed either. There’s too much to do.
This is what sleeping next to your smartphone does. Instead of slowing down your brain and helping it enter a restful state for you to fall asleep properly, you overstimulate it with digital information right before bedtime. Ultimately, you’re reducing the quality and duration of your sleep.
Sometimes, we justify pre-bedtime phone usage by telling ourselves we need to check our emails or to keep abreast of the latest developments in the market. Collectively, though, the productivity gains accrued from this are relatively insignificant compared to the substantial loss of productivity that results from being sleep-deprived.
What’s more, the blue light that your phone emits also tricks your brain into thinking it’s still daytime. Hence, it continues to function as it does during the day instead of shutting down for bed.
Huffington suggests not bringing your digital devices into the bedroom at all. She herself leaves them in the hallway to charge for the night so that they aren’t the last thing she checks before sleeping and the first thing she sees when she wakes up.