Are You Getting Enough Sleep?

Many people feel pressured to perform faster, better, stronger, and longer in the workplace.

Are you one of them?

One in every three U.S. citizens suffers from moderate to severe sleep debt (Center for Disease Control, 2016).

“Sleep loss alters normal functioning of attention and disrupts the ability to focus on environmental sensory input,” explains Karen Davis, FNP. “When you fail to get your required amount of sufficient sleep, you start to accumulate a sleep debt.”

Even those who work at home and create their own schedules face sleep debt.  When customers and clients live overseas, online independent contractors must rearrange their lives (and sleep) to adapt to different time zones.  Parents of babies and young children understand sleep debt, too. Those who are juggling two or more jobs really understand debt.

Micah Kidd , a certified strength and conditioning specialist and nutritionist, is a VIPKID teacher and moderator of VIPKID Health and Wellness, a Facebook group for teachers who teach English to children in China via a virtual classroom.  Micah – and thousands of teachers like him – often teach late at night or in the wee hours of the early morning.  VIPKID teachers are engaged in English dialogue with children while most North Americans are asleep.

Micah’s tips about sleep deprivation apply to anyone who is struggling with sleep debt.

He explains sleep debt and offers tips to ensure restful sleep on his website:

Why It Matters

Sleep might be low on your priority list.  The internet has provided tools for virtual employees, business owners, and online teachers to check their apps for new bookings and feedback at any time of day.  It is easy to treat sleep as something that is at the bottom of your priority list – not something that needs to be scheduled as a priority.  But the reality is simple:  sleep has a massive impact on your performance.

Why We Struggle With Sleep

Most U.S. citizens have schedules that no longer fit a traditional Monday through Friday 9-5 work day.  These schedule interruptions take its toll on the body.   As we try to meet the many demands facing us, we struggle to get adequate sleep because the circadian rhythm or internal clock pushes individuals to stay drowsy at night and alert during the day.

Working from a virtual office blurs the boundaries between work life and home life, which in some ways can be good — it reduces your travel time to work.  Unfortunately, it can also make it harder to get to sleep. Instead of feeling the relief of coming home at the end of the day, your home will double as the office, and the stress from your day of work might linger well into the night.

Too much caffeine interferes with sleep.  Most offices have complimentary coffee in the break room, which is perfect for perking up in the morning or pushing through that afternoon slump.  But while working from home, you’ll have access to coffee, soda, tea, or energy drinks whenever you want them.  It’s easy for your morning and afternoon habit to turn into an evening habit, too.  According to the American Alliance for Healthy Sleep, caffeine consumption can seriously disrupt your sleep.

Late-night online screen time also interferes with your body’s natural sleep rhythm. When working from home, you’ll have a full office setup at your disposal anytime you want to use it. That means if you’re browsing social media or working on a big project, you’ll be tempted to work late into the night. Unfortunately, all that late-night screen time can interfere with your circadian rhythms and make it harder for you to consistently get a good night’s sleep.

Lack of a regular schedule also interferes with a good night’s (or day’s) rest.  When working from home, you have freedom to handle your work just about any way you want — which means if you want to nap during the day, between work sessions, you can do it.   According to the American Psychological Association, naps can be beneficial in refreshing for your mind and body — but if you nap too much or too close to bedtime, it can keep you from maintaining a consistent sleep schedule.

TIPS FOR GOOD SLEEP

Lack of sleep is the battle that all of us fight. This guide is meant to be a quick guide for sleeping:

  • Sleep and wake at a consistent time.  Irregular sleep patterns disrupt our circadian rhythm – even on the weekends.
  • Manage your nutrition.  Eat minimally processed foods. Don’t eat late at night.  Many sleep experts encourage patients to stop eating after 8:00 p.m.  Restricting food to daylight hours has been shown to help sleep quality.   If you can’t avoid evening snacks, stay away from the carbs.
  • Sleep in a cool room.  Set your thermostat at 70 degrees or lower before you go to bed.
  • Optimize your bedroom for sleep.  It is not an office or a living room. Make it peaceful and relaxing, ditch the TV, iPhones, and tablets. Dim the alarm lights, install black-out curtains over your windows, and purchase a comfortable bed.
  • Don’t drink caffeine late in the day.  You may feel you need it, but what you really need is a good night’s sleep. 
  • Take breaks.  Taking a break now and again away while you at work can really recharge the batteries.  Scheduled breaks throughout the day increase productivity.
  • Reduce blue light at night.  Blue light tricks your brain into thinking it’s daytime.  This is a circadian disruption and is NOT a good thing.
  • Go outside!   Get some sun. Blue light exposure during the day is very healthy.  Blue light is a very powerful circadian cue.
  • Reduce stress.  Try meditating for at least two minutes a day.  Identify the key stressors in your life so you can eliminate or mitigate them.
  • Avoid excessive use of alcohol.  Excessive alcohol consumption alters hormone patterns and also worsens sleep apnea.
  • Consider melatonin.  This sleep hormone is safe and effective.
  • Exercise daily.  Preferably in the morning or in daylight hours, but any time is better than none at all.
  • Don’t drink a lot of liquid before bed.  Some people have greater sensitivities to food and water intake before bedtime than others. Limiting your water intake naturally eliminates the need to wake up, get up, and use the bathroom.
  • Develop a sleeptime ritual.  A calm routine that includes de-stressing activities (breathing exercises, meditation, reading, taking a hot bath/shower, removing electronic equipment, etc.) transforms routines into habits.
  • Study your sleep.  Learn your sleep patterns by tracking them with a fitness tracker. Get tested by a physician to determine if you have a sleep disorder.

Micah offers more tips about sleep debt in this video:

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Micah Kidd has a MS in Kinesiology from the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV).  He is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA and holds a Group Fitness Instructor certification through ACE. He is also a certified nutritionist. Micah teaches at UNLV.  He is a U.S. Army veteran and served as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

What can you do to catch up on the rest your body needs?

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