When was the last time you woke up feeling completely refreshed?
If you can’t remember, it’s possible that you’re trading sleep for work, and it’s probably impacting your performance more than you know.
Only 59% of Americans sleep seven or more hours a night, according to a recent Gallup poll. Sound like a dream to you? You might be in the 41% who don’t even get the luxury of that much rest.
Getting a good night’s sleep is important, yet a good portion of the population ignores common medical advice recommending seven to nine hours of sleep each night. A lack of sleep has been linked to a number of health problems and can cause cognitive impairment.
In fact, studies show that performance, when sleep deprived, is similar to performance when under the influence of alcohol. So, if you put in an 80-hour workweek, you might as well be coming to work drunk the last few days.
Sleep deprivation negatively affects many important skills leaders need for optimal performance such as memory, attention, concentration, and mental acuity needed for effective decision-making. Lack of sleep is also a productivity killer, but leaders often feel as if there’s no alternative to long hours and late night work sessions if they want to succeed.
It is a common misconception that more time equals greater results. However, a Stanford University study found that longer work days have a negative impact on performance. In short, the study found that productivity dramatically decreases when you work more than 50 hours. In fact, anything over 55 hours provides so little return in terms of productivity that there’s no reason to work this much.
The most successful leaders know the importance of shifting gears in the evening and on weekends to get adequate rest and replenish their energy so they can be on their A-game.
Below are 10 tips for achieving better sleep and work performance.
When at home:
1. Set a (new) bedtime schedule that affords more sleep, and stick to it.
It can take some time and effort to create a new habit, so be sure to set a goal that’s achievable. Try starting by turning in 30 minutes earlier or getting up a bit later —whichever helps you get closer to the recommended hours of sleep — and go from there.
2. Turn off electronic devices starting an hour before you go to bed.
Going to bed earlier can be facilitated by making changes to your evening work routines. One of my clients chose to turn off all gadgets (and his mind) by 7 p.m. each night. This profoundly improved his sleep, energy and productivity.
3. Be mindful of your caffeine and alcohol intake.
You may be aware of the effects of caffeine as a stimulant, but you may not know that while alcohol can make you drowsy, it can negatively affect your sleep quality. Instead, choose a milky drink (with tryptophan) or herbal tea, such as chamomile, to unwind.
4. Make time for exercise.
Exercise is great for your body and can improve your overall health and sleep patterns, according to a National Sleep Foundation study. Consider exercising in the morning to kick start your energy for the day or set aside a mid-day break for your workout.
5. When reading before bed choose a physical book or e-reader that doesn’t emit blue or white light.
Blue light given off by electronic devices can prevent your brain from releasing melatonin (a sleep-regulating hormone) and have a negative impact on your body’s circadian rhythm.
6. Practice meditation or deep breathing techniques to get your body and mind ready for sleep.
Sometimes the hardest part of going to bed is turning off the whirlwind of thoughts in your brain. Try a quick round of box breathing (do each for a count of four, and do four rounds: inhale, hold; exhale, hold). Or, do three to five minutes of meditation using an app like Buddhify to help you focus.
And for those who have to travel for work, a few more tips:
7. Avoid red-eye flights if possible.
I don’t know anyone who gets quality sleep on a plane. To be fully prepared and alert for your business meetings, avoid scheduling overnight flights that require immediate performance (yes, meetings with your team count!).
8. Allow yourself a transition day when traveling out of your time zone.
It can be hard to be productive when your body is on a different “clock.” Arrive a day earlier (on a regular flight) and take the opportunity to work remotely in relative quiet.
9. Keep hotel rooms set to cooler room temperature and block out annoying lights.
You may keep your thermostat higher at home to cut costs, but the best room temperature for sound sleep is between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit. Bring along electrical tape to cover little lights in hotel rooms that bug you, and use a bath towel to block out hallway light.
10. Use a sound machine to help block disturbing noises in hotels.
There’s nothing worse than being awakened by a slamming door or a crying baby next door. To minimize sleep disruption, bring along a portable white noise machine, earplugs, or use a sound app on your phone.
It’s important to recognize that the amount of sleep you need is unique to you. The key is ensuring that you create habits that support you being able to sleep when you need to. Your productivity and your team will be all the better when you take care of yourself.
To read the original post on Forbes.com, click here.