Sleep Your Way… To Productivity!

March 14 was World Sleep Day and sadly most people were caught napping – it passed by unnoticed!

I say ‘sadly’ because most of us could benefit from paying attention to our sleep habits. Too many of us are ignorant of the significant role that sleep plays in our ability to be productive, happy and healthy.

How often have you heard someone say, “There will be plenty of time to sleep when I’m dead!”? Or, “Lack of sleep never hurt anyone!”?

Boy, they are so wrong! Probably the most important change you can make in your life is to ensure that you and your loved ones get enough sleep.

Quality of sleep is more important than time, so focus on that and don't obsess about the clock. photo

Quality of sleep is more important than time, so focus on that and don’t obsess about the clock. photo

Why Is Enough Sleep So Important?

Not getting enough shut-eye leads to:

  • Depression, irritability and psychological distress
  • Decreased ability to concentrate, problem-solve and make decisions
  • Reduced reaction time and impaired memory
  • Slower comprehension and learning
  • Increased risk of accidents and injury (including workplace accidents and motor vehicle accidents)
  • Decreased satisfaction and increased pessimism
  • Illness, due to a suppressed immune system
  • Employers, managers and team leaders take note: If your staff members are not getting enough sleep they are costing you big money!

For some people – especially children – sleep deprivation does not necessarily cause lethargy; instead they become hyperactive and unfocused. The ‘over-tired’ child becomes difficult, whiny… and can’t sleep!

ADHD or Just Sleep Deprived?

Think about ADHD (Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder). What are the classic symptoms?

  • Procrastination, forgetfulness, a propensity to lose things and, of course, the inability to pay attention consistently. These are the same as the consequences of lack of sleep!

A number of studies have shown that a huge proportion of children with a diagnosis of ADHD also have one or more sleep disorders, which disrupt their sleep. Researchers are increasingly seeing connections between poor sleep and what looks like ADHD. Many patients do not have ADHD at all – they are just not getting enough deep sleep!

It might just be a coincidence, but the explosion in ADHD diagnoses began in the 1990s – the same decade that our modern sleep-restricting lifestyles began getting more extreme, with its non-stop 14-hour schedules and melatonin-inhibiting electronic devices like laptops, smart phones, tablets and reading devices.

Read more about ADHD in my article Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder.

What’s Enough Sleep?

Sleeping athlete Southern Storm Duathlon

When do you need sleep? When your body tells you it’s time! photo Kelvin Trautman/Southern Storm Duathlon

Studies have shown that the average length of sleep for an adult is 7.25 hours (seven hours and fifteen minutes), but of course not everyone is average – some people need more, some need less. Somewhere between seven to nine hours a night is advisable for adults. Children need more sleep.

We all get less sleep than we used to. The number of adults who reported sleeping fewer than seven hours each night went from two per cent in 1960 to more than 35 per cent in 2011. That means that quite possibly a third of us are not getting enough sleep!

Sleep is even more crucial for children who need deep sleep for proper growth and development. Yet today’s youngsters sleep more than an hour less than they did a hundred years ago.

Refer to  the table How Much Sleep do you Really Need? in my article Insomnia.

How do you get enough shut eye?

By practicing good sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene refers to the principles of behaviour and the techniques you need to develop to get a good night’s sleep. These principles apply to all of us, and if you turn them into habits you will be amazed at how much better you will sleep. Good sleep hygiene principles include:

  • Avoiding alcohol within 4 – 6 hours of bedtime
  • Avoiding stimulants (caffeine, nicotine and some prescription and non-prescription drugs) 3 – 4 hours of bedtime
  • Exercising regularly, but not within 4 – 6 hours of bedtime
  • Surprised? Most people are!
  • Read all 10 Principles of Good Sleep Hygiene to ensure that you are doing the best you can for yourself and your loved ones when it comes to sleeping.

What do you think?

Share your wisdom with others… What do you do to ensure that you and your loved ones get a good night’s sleep?

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Other articles posted in this period

About Claire Newton

Claire is a qualified psychologist, speaker, trainer and coach, but says "I am also so much more than the sum of these parts. I started my career as a teacher - I taught 7-year-olds and loved it! But, while I loved teaching, I also loved learning and thus decided to go back to university to study further. This decision eventually led me into the field of psychology. As well as running my own private practice, I apply my skills as a psychologist in other areas, including training, coaching and speaking. These seemingly diverse areas of work actually link together well and enhance each other – and they are all underpinned by my core belief system as well as the philosophy and principles by which I live my life. I’ve travelled extensively, having lived and worked in over 30 countries. I have worked as a kids’ ski instructor in the Rocky Mountains; a chambermaid in top hotels in the USA; a teacher in London inner city schools; an usher at Durban’s largest theatre; a lecturer at a private tertiary institution in South Africa and a stewardess on privately-owned luxury yachts in the Mediterranean and Seychelles."

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