Why Now is the Perfect Time to Prioritize Sleep for Productivity

(CC) Kevin Dooley/Flickr

The end of Daylight Savings Time this weekend ushered in a blissful extra hour of sleep. This is the perfect opportunity for you to prioritize sleep for productivity’s sake.

Sleep and Productivity

Twenty percent of U.S. adults exhibit signs of chronic sleep deprivation. I’m surprised that figure isn’t higher. Today’s society tends to wear sleeplessness like a badge of honor. We brag about pulling all-nighters, staying out until the wee hours of the morning and then waking up early the next day for work, or hunkering down at the office for 16-hour shifts. I’ve done it — sometimes for weeks on end. I’ve seen the light, however, and now it’s your turn.

The latest research presented at the Society for Neuroscience reveals some startling findings about sleep as it relates to productivity. Sleeplessness messes with your memory, ability to learn, brain cell behavior, and how your brain integrates old and new information. Even missing less than half a night’s sleep can screw up your memory by hindering the communication between your hippocampus and other regions of your brain.

How to Get More Sleep

This weekend’s time change made it easy to slip in an extra hour of sleep, but how can you get more sleep in a typical week? People write entire books about this topic, but here are two tricks that singlehandedly solved my sleeplessness and thereby preserved my productivity.

  1. Wind down with a routine. For me, it starts with shutting my laptop and plugging in my gadgets (See No. 2). Then I go on a 30-minute walk around the neighborhood, relax and putter around the house for awhile, shower and finally head to bed. It didn’t take long before I began to feel myself unwind during the walk, and now, almost as soon as I step out of the shower, I’m ready to hit the sheets.
  2. Limit screen time. Brightly lit gadgets stimulate your circadian system and suppress melatonin production. Reduce screen time before bed, and as often as possible, resist the urge to bring your tech into bed with you. This is tough at first, but I promise, it’ll be worth your while.