Editor’s Note: This article is one of the top 10 habits to adopt to be better at your job in 2016. See the full list here.
You may feel super productive by pulling all nighters, but you’re actually less productive when you're running on very little sleep. Insufficient sleep can not only inhibit concentration, but can also cause anxiety, irritability, and affect your ability to retain information, which all results in poorer productivity.
Those who are most productive know the importance of hitting the sack, and they have particular sleeping habits that we should all mimic.
If you rely on your blaring alarm clock to jolt you out of bed each morning, it’s likely you aren’t getting enough sleep. "Everybody has a different sleep need," says Dr. Hawley Montgomery Downs, Sleep Research Laboratory director at West Virginia University. "The sign that you’re getting enough sleep is that you don’t need an alarm clock to wake up." You may need to shift your nighttime routine to go to bed earlier or wake up later.
Getting enough sleep is only part of the sleep equation. You also need to ensure the sleep you’re getting is good quality sleep. "If you’re sleeping 10 hours a night and tossing and turning, or your legs are twitching all night, more sleep isn’t necessarily going to be better," says Montgomery Downs. If you have a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea that affects the quality of your sleep, it’s best to seek help from a sleep specialist.
Inconsistent sleep creates a feeling similar to jet lag, where your body’s circadian rhythm is affected. Getting to bed at the same time every night allows the body’s circadian rhythm to become regulated, causing you to wake up feeling more refreshed.
More companies are now recognizing the benefits of allowing employees to nap on the job. Nap rooms have now become the norm, especially in tech companies like Google and HubSpot, and science is backing up claims that sleeping on the job can boost productivity. A University of California, Berkeley study showed that an hourlong nap can make you smarter by boosting and restoring brain power, and a University of Michigan study showed that an hourlong nap can also impact mood, helping employees persevere through difficult or frustrating tasks. While a 20-minute nap may be all you need to feel rejuvenated, Montgomery Downs says the ideal nap lasts an entire sleep cycle–-one hour.
While alcohol may help put you to sleep, it can also cause you to wake up in the middle of the night, suppressing REM sleep that is vital to consolidating memory and learning. Caffeine before bedtime can also impair your sleep. One 2013 study at the Henry Ford Hospital’s Sleep Disorders & Research Center showed caffeine taken six hours or less before bedtime contributes to sleep disruptions.
Environment is an important contributor to good quality sleep. Light from a cell phone or television in the bedroom causes changes in the body’s internal clock, which affects the quality of your slumber.