How to Maintain a Proper Sleep Cycle When Working Over 8 Hours Per Day
In an era of hustle culture and back-to-back commitments, juggling long work hours with adequate rest can seem elusive.
However, sleep isn't just a luxury—it's a necessity for physical health, mental well-being, and overall productivity.
According to CFAH’s statistics, 50 to 70 million Americans have some type of sleep disorder, and 30% to 40% of adults in the US complain of insomnia symptoms.
Even when clocking more than 8 hours at work, ensuring a proper sleep cycle is paramount. Here's how you can strike the balance.
The Indispensable Role of Sleep in Our Lives
Sleep, often seen as a mere restorative function, holds far more significance than commonly perceived.
Particularly for those pulling long hours at work, understanding the multifaceted benefits of sleep is paramount to maintaining one’s health, well-being, and efficiency.
Physical Restoration through Sleep
Sleep is akin to a night-time mechanic for our bodies, repairing and optimizing various functions as we drift into our dreams.
Every day, our bodies go through wear and tear. Be it from exposure to harmful UV rays or minor injuries like muscle tears from physical activity.
During deep sleep phases, the body accelerates the repair of cells and tissues. It's the prime time when proteins and other growth hormones get to work to restore potential damage.
Boosted Immune System:
Sleep and the immune system share a symbiotic relationship. An efficient immune system aids better sleep, and quality sleep fortifies the body's defense mechanisms.
Lack of proper sleep can lead to a weakened immune response, making us more vulnerable to infections. On the contrary, consistent good sleep optimizes the function of immune cells known as T-cells, boosting our resistance against diseases.
Ever wondered why after a good night's sleep, you feel recharged?
During sleep, the body works on balancing the hormones that make you feel tired (adenosine) and hormones that regulate energy (like ghrelin and leptin). Thus, waking up after restful sleep leaves you with replenished energy stores.
Sleep's Role in Upholding Mental and Emotional Equilibrium
Far beyond its physical benefits, sleep acts as a linchpin for cognitive processes and emotional stability, making it indispensable for maintaining mental health.
Our brains are constantly processing an influx of information. Sleep acts as the 'save button' for these memories.
During the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) phase of sleep, the brain sifts through information, discarding the irrelevant and consolidating significant memories, making them easier to access and recall.
Sleep is not just for the body; it's a balm for our emotions as well.
Lack of sleep can make us more reactive and less adept at handling stress. On the flip side, good sleep equips us with better emotional resilience, helping us respond to challenges with a balanced and calm demeanor.
Optimized Cognitive Functions:
From making decisions to thinking out of the box, our cognitive abilities are honed with good sleep.
Sleep deprivation can muddle our thinking, impair judgment, and stifle creativity. A well-rested brain, however, can process information faster, make accurate decisions, and foster creative ideas.
Improve Your Sleep With Better Sleep Hygiene
The term "sleep hygiene" refers to the habits and practices conducive to sleeping well on a consistent basis. This is especially pertinent for those with long working hours.
Create a Relaxing Bedtime Routine
A consistent pre-sleep routine signals the brain that it's time to wind down.
Steps to consider
Limit screen time: The blue light emitted by phones and computers can interfere with melatonin production, a hormone responsible for sleep.
Read or meditate: These calming activities can help transition the body into a restful state.
Warm baths: Not only relaxing, but the rise and subsequent fall in body temperature also promote drowsiness.
Make Your Sleep Environment Conducive
Your environment plays a pivotal role in sleep quality.
Darkness matters: Invest in blackout curtains or eye masks. Darkness boosts melatonin production.
Cool room: A slightly cooler room (around 65°F or 18°C) is optimal for sleep.
Noise control: Consider white noise machines or earplugs to drown out disruptions.
Addressing Work-Related Stress
Long work hours often come with added responsibilities and stress, which can interfere with sleep. This is especially true when you are an entrepreneur, and your work hours are 24/7.
Set Clear Boundaries
Drawing a line between work and rest is vital.
Have a fixed shutdown time: Decide on a time to cease all work-related activities each day.
Create a dedicated workspace: If working from home, having a separate work area can help mentally compartmentalize work and relaxation.
Unplug: Post work, try to avoid checking work emails or engaging in work discussions.
Incorporate Relaxation Techniques
Stress-relief practices can ease the transition from a hectic workday to restful sleep.
Deep breathing exercises: This helps in reducing the stress hormone, cortisol.
Yoga or light stretching: Helps in relieving physical tension and calming the mind.
Journaling: Writing down your worries can act as a mental release, preparing your mind for rest.
Adapt and Modify Your Diet
What you consume has a direct effect on your sleep cycle, more so when working long hours.
Monitor Caffeine Intake
While caffeine can be a savior during tiring workdays, it's crucial to time its consumption.
Limit intake: Restrict to 2-3 cups of coffee daily.
Time it right: Avoid caffeine post mid-afternoon, as it can interfere with nighttime sleep.
Light Evening Meals
Heavy meals just before bedtime can cause discomfort and indigestion.
Keep it light: Opt for easily digestible foods in the evening.
Mind the gap: Aim for at least 2-3 hours between dinner and bedtime to allow for digestion.
Juggling extended work hours while ensuring optimal rest is undeniably challenging.
However, with conscious efforts towards maintaining sleep hygiene, setting work boundaries, and adopting conducive dietary practices, achieving a consistent sleep cycle becomes attainable.
In the journey of productivity, sleep isn't a roadblock but rather the fuel that drives you forward. Prioritize it, and even the longest work days will become more manageable and productive.