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Balancing Work and Sleep

In today’s hectic world, the work week can easily become a strange schedule of waking up early to meet deadlines and staying up late for social obligations, only to sleep in on weekends. However, as research has shown again and again, there’s nothing as vital to our everyday quality of life as a good night’s sleep. Although sleep deprivation can seem like a badge of honor, finding a healthy balance between our professional and personal lives requires a shift in perspective and a regular sleep schedule.

Losing Sleep & Risking Health

Despite changing lifestyles over human history, we still need as much sleep as the greatest of our great grandparents did. Not getting enough rest leads to sleep deprivation, or the resulting dangerous state of grogginess, fatigue, muscle soreness, and irritability. The myriad negative consequences include greater risks of heart disease, mental illness, diabetes, and obesity. Increased stress levels lead to decreased decision-making ability, fueling a vicious cycle of unhealthy habits that can feel inescapable: from working more to make up for poor decisions to sleeping less afterwards.

Sleep Banks & Other Misconceptions

The first step is to understand how we sleep. To start, you are the only person that can determine how much sleep you need because each person’s internal circadian clock for waking and resting is different. In addition, many people conceptualize sleep as a bank that you must refill after losing sleep, but you can immediately reverse the negative effects with a few weeks of consistent sleep. This is due, in part, to the sleep drive, or your body’s sense of fatigue, which acts much like a car’s dashboard gas light. It dissipates when you rest and grows through the day, with high points from 1 to 3 PM and 2 to 4 AM. So, although sleeping in seems wonderful, it will disrupt your body’s sleep schedule, leading to sleep-onset insomnia. Instead, napping for 20, 60, or 90 minutes can better restore your energy.

 

Tips for Better Sleep Health

Sleeping better requires that we adapt our workaday life to make a clear place and time for sleep. Common habits like eating or using electronic devices just before bed disrupt biological rhythms, so they have to be avoided. Instead, you must cultivate a healthy lifestyle; here are a few key ways to do so.

-          Stay active with regular workouts to help boost and regulate energy levels.

-          Avoid caffeine and alcohol after dinner, as both disrupt sleep cycles.

-          Boost energy during the day by snacking on high-energy fruits and nuts and eating foods high in antioxidants and protein like fish and green veggies.

-          Set a clear schedule, with time reserved for fun, including dates, socializing, and hobbies.

-          Stop all work - and turn off all electronic devices - 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime.

-          Make a calming bedroom by minimizing distractions and wearing earplugs and a sleep mask.

Measure how much sleep you need in order to establish a robust sleep schedule. When necessary, prepare for losing sleep by going to bed early and taking a power nap the day after to recalibrate.

 


Using these tips to help reserve a clear space and time for rest in your work week – and playful weekend – will help you quickly regain deep, refreshing sleep. Soon enough, you’ll wonder how you got on the bandwagon of wearing deprivation as a badge of honor. In short, the best route to a healthful life is to clearly balance the different parts of your life with that fundamental time for rest: sleep.