It seems like a no-brainer. Your mind works better in the office when you’ve had a good night’s sleep. But it isn’t always possible to achieve this.
“Sleep plays an important role in your ability to perform. People suffering from chronic sleep interruptions experience irritability, daytime fatigue and a lack of ability to concentrate,” Dr. David Volpi, founder and direct of Eos Sleep, points out. “This directly affects your performance at work as it becomes difficult to focus on specific tasks, to remain concentrated and in addition, a lack of sleep affects your memory –a key component to any job…To succeed in business, or any endeavor, requires focus and concentration, and without those it is not long before work performance is compromised.”
Set The Mood
Atmosphere can play a major role in your ability to have a good sleep. “Use the bedroom for its intended purpose only –sleep and sex. Eliminate electronics from the bedroom such as the TV, radio, laptop and smart phone,” suggests Dr. Volpi. Keep the bedroom cool.
“Dim the lights an hour before bed. You don’t have to live in a cave, but this really helps,” says Stanford-trained sleep physician Dr. Nitun Verma. “Put down anything with an Apple logo or an Android logo! The last hour before bed is critical. Your phone / tablet is only going to give your problems.”
Naturopathic medical physician Dr. Sharon Stills says, “Purchase 100% cotton or satin sheets – spray lavender on your pillow case–this is an essential oil that is known to induce relaxation. Play some lovely music to wind down -harp music for 10 minutes before falling asleep is just divine.”
Have a bedtime routine. Try and sleep at the same time each night. Consistency is important because the routine will trigger your brain that it’s time to go to bed,” says Dr. Volpi.
De-stress After Work
If you are all wound up from work, it will be doubly hard to get to sleep. Take time to de-stress.
Try and leave the office at the same time each day. “Train yourself to know that work is work and home is where the heart is. When you get home, take off your shoes and change into some relaxing clothes,” suggests Dr. Stills.
Do some light exercises such as a walking, bike riding or “simply five minutes of sitting still and breathing,” says Dr. Stills. Yoga is great as well.
“Have some unstructured time at home between work and sleep to do something you enjoy whether it is calling a friend, reading online or playing video games,” says licensed psychotherapist Rebecca Rawczak. “This is more difficult to do with family responsibilities and children at home, so see if you can make a plan to swap free time with your partner or trade off with friends nearby to make some unstructured time to look forward to as often as possible.”
End your night with a soak in a nice bath—not only will it soothe your muscles but it will calm you as well.
The Effects of Food
There are foods that can aid your sleep—or hinder a restful night. “One of the biggest causes of sleep problems I see is that people are eating far too many sugars and carbohydrates every day. We need to use or store those carbohydrates. Some of these extra carbohydrates are burned during the night and that leads to restless sleep, tossing and turning and not being able to fall asleep, even when the mind is tired,” explains holistic nutritionist and herbalist Christina Major of Crystal Holistic Health Consulting. “It’s like trying to get a two year-old to take a nap after eating a pixie stick.”
Try not to eat anything after 6PM. Eat a light dinner. “That way, the digestive system does not work hard in the evening, there are not as many sugars in the blood and our natural processes can take over and properly produce the melatonin we need for a good night of sleep,” says Major.
Have a diet that includes foods like fish (i.e. salmon) that are high in B6, which is needed to make melatonin (a sleep-inducing hormone triggered by darkness), suggests Dr. Volpi. Yogurt and dairy foods that boost calcium should also be included. “It’s important to eat a balanced protein/carb meal later in the day as this will also help the body make melatonin to ensure good sleep. An apple with peanut butter or carrots and hummus are good choices for late-night snacks,” says Dr. Volpi.
Avoid foods that increase heartburn, which can delay sleep, says Dr. Verma. This includes: fats; oils; sweets; foods with high acids such as orange juice, lemon, lemonade, grapefruit juice, cranberry juice, tomato; mashed potatoes; French fries; raw onion; and potato salad.
Avoid caffeinated foods and beverages at least three hours before bedtime.
If you take some sort of sleeping aid to fall asleep, you are not alone. Americans filled some 60 million prescriptions for sleeping pills in 2012, an increase from 47 million in 2006, according to IMS Health, reported the New York Times. But this habit can actually be masking the real reason you aren’t sleeping. “If you are addicted to pharmaceuticals such as Ambien, see a naturopathic doctor who can help you wean off them and, if needed, onto a natural remedy,” advises Dr. Stills. “Pharmaceuticals are addictive and do not get to the root of the problem.”