3 Ways to Prioritize Sleep on Your Way to the Top
The quality of your sleep directly affects how good you are at doing your job or running our business. It may sound like common and obvious knowledge, but in the world of cutthroat business, it’s a statement that bears repeating: if you want to be the best that you can be at whatever it is you do, you absolutely cannot sacrifice good sleep.
While there are some managers out there who can still outperform everyone else while running on very little sleep, they should be seen as exceptions to the rule rather than role models for good management. In a recent TalentSmart survey, it was found that 90% of top performers are able to remain at the top by managing their emotions during stressful times at work. And one of the main ways that these elite few keep their emotions in check is through getting enough sleep.
The amount of healthy sleep you get on a regular basis dictates your mood during the workday and ultimately affects how well you perform. In fact, Harvard Medical School has linked insomnia and sleeplessness to irritability, stress, depression, anxiety, and other emotional disorders that can very well sabotage your bid for being manager of the year.
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If you value your career, and even more importantly, your own personal health and wellbeing, you have to let go of the notion that ‘sleep is for the weak’. In reality, getting the proper amount of healthy sleep per night can give you the emotional strength you need in order to manage stress and perform to the best of your abilities.
18 to 64 Year-Olds Require 7 to 9 Hours of Regular Sleep to Remain Healthy
In 2015, the National Sleep Foundation aka NSF released a comprehensive report on recommended sleeping times for people of all ages. The report was a result of collating international scientific literature on the subject of sleep duration and how it relates to overall health. By studying all the related literature that they could get their hands on, along with convening the expert opinions of professionals from a broad range of scientific disciplines (including neurology, anatomy, physiology, and gerontology), the NSF came up with sleep duration guidelines for every age range on the planet. And according to these guidelines, adults 18 to 64 years of age need 7 to 9 hours of sleep on a nightly basis in order to avoid the consequences of not getting enough sleep.
Following these scientifically grounded guidelines eliminates the guesswork in determining how many hours of sleep each person needs on a regular basis. If you’re a 20 or 30-something who’s only been getting 5 to 6 hours of sleep per night, that could be the reason why you’re feeling worse every morning. The solution is simple: get your recommended average hours of sleep. But if this proves to be a lot easier said than done, there are some steps you can take in order to achieve your recommended average.
150 Minutes of Exercise per Week Can Improve Sleep Quality by 65%
Another NSF study says that regular exercise at any time of the day can drastically improve the way you sleep. In a survey that collated the regular physical activity and sleep quality of 2600 people (18 to 85 years of age), the NSF found that 150 minutes of at least moderately strenuous exercise per week can provide a 65% improvement in overall sleep quality. And if your immediate concern is not having enough time to exercise in the morning or afternoon, the NSF survey also found that it doesn’t matter what time of the day you exercise. Even when people exercised close to midnight, they still reported improvements in sleep. In fact, exercising somewhat close to bedtime was better for sleep than not getting any exercise at all.
So instead of looking at your schedule and trying to figure out how much more work you can jam into your free time, it might be better use what little free time you have for exercise. It can be any form of exercise that’s considered moderate or vigorous. If good old running and weightlifting is too boring, sign up for yoga or even martial arts classes. Ask your HR department if the company offers any free or discounted rates for the local gym or yoga class. See if your schedule is flexible enough to open up gaps in which you can fit in some real exercise. Apart from shedding off some extra weight, it could allow you to shed off all that stress and get the sleep you need in order to be sharp and focused throughout each workday.
Sex Can Help You Get to Sleep
Instead of relying on sleeping pills to fight insomnia and get your recommended daily dose of sleep, you can try one of the most ancient and natural sleep remedies available: sex. Sexual release comes with a natural ‘sleep cocktail’ that can very effectively usher in the onset of sleep, and at the forefront of this sleep cocktail are brain chemicals endorphins, the human body’s natural opiates.
Endorphins are typically produced by the brain to counteract the ill effects of pain and stress. They’re also what gives you a ‘runner’s high’ when you exert your body close to its physical limits. And apart from experiencing pain/stress or running till exhaustion, another way to experience the euphoric, stress-melting effects of endorphins is through having sex.
Another active ingredient in this sexual chemical cocktail of sleep is oxytocin. Commonly known in certain scientific circles as the ‘love hormone’, oxytocin is a highly complex chemical that’s responsible for regulating a number of bodily functions. Experts say it’s also the hormone that prompts feelings of love and bonding with people that we trust. But perhaps the most useful effect of oxytocin (in terms of sleep) is how it counteracts cortisol aka the ‘stress hormone’ – the chemical released by the brain when we experience fear, anxiety, or stress. A good dose of oxytocin can be a very effective way to lower your levels of cortisol and manage pre-bedtime stress.
For women, the hormonal effects of coitus goes beyond the release of endorphins and oxytocin. Estrogen levels are also bound to rise during and after sex, and when this happens before bedtime, it can induce a deeper sleep by enhancing a woman’s REM sleep cycles. As an added bonus, higher levels of estrogen can actually enhance the production of healthy skin oil and mitigate inflammation, giving you better skin by combatting acne.
You can enjoy the effects of these relaxing and sleep-inducing chemicals simply by having sex. So don’t give up on Tinder and OkCupid just yet; those regular trysts could actually help you get some much-needed sleep better than any kind of pharmaceutical sleep medication can. Just make sure you’re not violating any company policies by sleeping with the boss or a coworker.
Taking Care of Certain Houseplants Can Improve Sleep and Memory
While there’s no scientific evidence to prove that houseplants can purify the air in your bedroom, there are certain plants with some very real mental and physical benefits. In a 2010 study, cape jasmine (scientific name: Gardenia jasminoides) has been found to have some very strong sedative effects comparable to surgical sedatives like barbiturates and propofol. Researchers found that simply inhaling essential oils from this species of jasmine has the same effect (and strength) as taking valium, and could therefore be used as an alternative and natural way to treat anxiety and sleep disorders.
On the other side of the spectrum is another plant that’s also commonly used in aromatherapy: rosemary, which research says could be a natural way to increase memory. Instead of inducing relaxation and sleep, researchers found that the scent of essential oils from rosemary can improve performance in memory-related tasks. While relaxing plants like jasmine and lavender work best in the bedroom, rosemary is the type of houseplant that works best on your workdesk. In fact, keeping a bunch of rosemary plants in the office could be a good way to increase the entire floor’s memory performance and overall productivity.
Remember: if you want to get to the top, you can’t neglect sleep. Healthy, regular, and uninterrupted sleep is part and parcel of success. And by practicing some or all of the abovementioned methods for getting healthier sleep, you can better ensure that you’re performing to the best of your skills and abilities while you’re in the office.
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