We’ve all been there, an urgent project deadline approaches causing you to pull the infamous ‘all-nighter’. You power on through the night believing you need to stay up and ‘work harder’. But, what if those two concepts did not coincide?
A 2010 sleep study was conducted on more than 4,000 workers over four large American corporations. Results found that sleep-deprived workers experienced steeper productivity declines, were less motivated, less focused, and less capable of remembering important information – instead of trying to ‘work harder’ we actually need to ‘sleep harder’ (weird concept, right?)
Today we’re going to dive deeper into the facts so that tonight you are empowered to sleep deeper and start thinking deeper.
Diving into the depths of sleep
Matthew Walker’s scientifically researched book, Why we sleep, highlights the importance of sleep and its stages for brain cognition.
To better understand sleep, we need to recognize that sleep has more than one gear. Like a mountain bike, your brain spins through different stages of the sleep cycle several times throughout the night.
The 2 main stages of sleep have specific significance to our brain’s productivity:
- Non-rapid eye movement (NREM) has 3 stages that work to gradually slow your vitals and brain waves in order to achieve a state of deep sleep. In this state, your brain is able to transfer short-term memories into long-term, while also restoring and repairing your muscles to prevent cramps and exhaustion.
- Rapid eye movement (REM) is when we dream the most, your brain wave activity increases closer to that of a wakeful state but we experience Muscle Atonia - when our limbs are paralyzed to prevent us from acting out our dreams. Experts surmise, due to similar patterns of brain activity seen during the day being replayed during sleep, that it is possible for dreams to be consolidating our memories and regulating our emotions from the day.
Unlocking the secrets of sleep
It can be so frustrating when you are exhausted from tossing and turning all night and someone says: “have you tried getting a good night’s sleep?” Sleep is a natural process, however for many different reasons we can lose our ability to easily sleep well. But it’s not the end of the line, we can regain productive sleep and here are some tips…
- Ignore the rules – The average recommended amount of sleep for adults is 7hrs. But if you wake up feeling great after only 6hrs or are still a zombie after 8hrs then do what suits you. Some of us are night owls and some of us early birds and we should play to these strengths rather than struggle to be ‘normal’.
- Implement rituals – Instead of working till we drop, organize a series of calming activities such as a warm bath, cup of calming Chamomile tea, some slow meditation or stretching, to prepare your body and slow your mind for sleep. When you’re busy working late, it's easy to think you need to rush into bed, but take the time to get your mind and body relaxed for a better night's sleep.
- Block out the lights – Seems simple right? We close our blinds and doors to keep our room dark and quiet, yet we keep our phones next to our heads all night. Even on ‘do not disturb’ mode our phones emit high levels of blue wavelengths which your brain associates with sunlight, tricking your brain into thinking it should be awake.