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The 3 most harmful sleeping habits for professionals

As a bunch, we human beings are strange creatures.

We know climate change is melting the ice-caps, yet we keep the AC on full blast. We know too much ice cream will make us sick, yet we go back for seconds. And we know sleep is good for our health – as the National Sleep Foundation tells us, we should be getting 7–9 hours per night – yet few of us get enough.

This last one is especially true for professionals, who in the scramble to have both the work and social life they desire often see time spent in bed as the easiest thing to cut out on.

Well, I’m here to tell you that the era of burning the candles at both ends has burnt out. Study after study has told us just how good for us good sleep is; it makes us more alert, more productive and all-around healthier, happier people. It improves our relationships, leaves us less vulnerable to illnesses and contributes positively to every aspect of our lives.

Google, Ben & Jerry’s and Uber have all installed high-tech ‘nap pods’ in their headquarters to allow their workers to catch up on lost Zs. If it’s good enough for those guys it’s good enough for you.

Below are just three of the most harmful sleeping habits for professionals …

1. Bringing your work to bed

Professionals are bringing work home with them – sending emails from their laptops or smartphones in bed right up until they flick off the light. The result plays havoc with their sleep patterns.

The blue light emitted by screens plays havoc with the bodies production of melatonin, the hormone which tells us when to get drowsy. It keeps us alert when we should be winding down.

Secondly, the interactive nature of technology overstimulates the brain. Activities in the hour or two before bed should be gradually less and less stimulating, allowing the brain to enter a state of relaxation. Anything else will lead to difficulty getting to sleep and an increased chance of waking throughout the night.

The bedroom should be a sanctuary for rest and relaxation. That’s it. It should not be an office away from the office. Too many professionals fail to switch off in the evening and as a result, they fail to nod off.  The solution: keep work – and your electronics – out of the bedroom.

2. Over-reliance on caffeine

Ah, the takeaway coffee cup. Look around your next meeting, chances are over half of the people in the room are sipping from one.

A status symbol for some, maybe, but for most professionals, it’s simply an essential means of making it through the day.

Coffee is not inherently bad for you. In moderation, it’s great; it can improve memory, boost alertness and even detoxify the liver. The problem is that caffeine is a stronger drug and stays in the system far longer than most people realize. As a result, caffeine often plays a role in preventing professionals from sleeping well in the evening.

Waking up groggy, the same individuals then turn to a double espresso to give them the hit of energy that a good night’s sleep would’ve provided for free.

What’s worse is that over time individuals will have to consume more and more coffee to get the same impact. Meaning they will likely be getting less and less sleep making for a cruel cycle.

My advice: don’t touch the black stuff after midday. It’s called a ‘morning coffee’ for a reason.

With the money you save from shunning the expensive macchiatos, why not invest in a nice new mattress? If you do go bed shopping soon there are some surprising new dangers you need to be aware of.

3. Disrespecting your bedtime

Professionals have the horrible habit of disrespecting their bedtimes. The consequence is that many sleep poorly.

Bedtimes are not just for kids. The human body absolutely adores routine. When we are asleep our bodies go to work, repairing and rejuvenating us in preparation for the following day. This process works far more smoothly if we adopt regular sleep patterns.

Physically, our muscle tissue is repaired while sleeping, whilst even more important processes take place in our brain. Our memories are consolidated, neurological connections are strengthened and adenosine, the chemical produced by our neurons during the day that makes us drowsy is flushed away meaning we are bright, alert and ready for work come morning.

A quick rule of thumb: determine when you absolutely have to be up for work and then work back 8.5 hours – that, my friend, is your new healthy bedtime. Stick to it! (Pssst…if all of these calculations confuse you, fear not … there’s an app for that!)

If you recognize any of the above from your own life, all it takes is a few small changes to your routine and your sleep will thank you for it. The impact on your health and productivity will be huge.

Hey, I’m Sarah. My mission is to get the world to see just how happy, healthy and productive we can all be after a good night’s rest — together with my friends, I’ve created a great resource to help.

This column was originally published on BossedUp.org.

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