How to be less tired all the time (so you can be better at your job)
Sick of being tired all the time? I know I am. I have a toddler with whom I co-sleep, a job, and chronic insomnia, so I probably get about half the sleep I should. I’m always exhausted, and there have even been moments when I have wondered if you can die from lack of sleep. (You can, says the internet, but it’s harder than one might imagine.)
And I know there are thousands just like me out there, struggling to stay awake. Even if you don’t have little kids, many folks work more than one job, or simply suffer from insomnia. So, we’re not running as efficiently as we could be most of the time.
Recent research suggests that, in order to function optimally, men need 7.8 hours of sleep per night, and women need 7.6 hours.
Hahahahahahaha! Oh, mercy! As if.
OK, according to Statistics Canada, the average Canadian over 15 sleep just over 8 hours a night. But that study included the unemployed, the childless, and teenagers. It’s the rest of us that fall well below that bar. (Also, it’s apparently said that we overestimate the amount of sleep we get by about 45 minutes.)
In even better news, those of us who don’t sleep enough are more likely to suffer from chronic diseases such as, diabetes, depression, and cancer (why did I quit smoking again?).
OK, enough already.
Can we get more sleep, and be less tired on what we do get?
Here are some handy-dandy tips for how to get better sleep and be less exhausted during the day.
First, the so obvious they’re cliché.
- 1. Have a sleep routine: Take a bath, dim the lights, drink some herbal tea or hot milk. Do the same thing every night, so your body gets the message “It’s nighty-night time.”
2. Reserve your bedroom for sleeping: Keep distractions out of your room and make it a sanctuary with one sole purpose – getting shut eye.
3. Keep your room dark: Light at night messes with your melatonin production and you need that to sleep. Turn off the lights.
4. Avoid screens before bed: OK, most of us aren’t realistically going to do this but, just FYI, experts say you should avoid TV, computers, phone, and tablet screens for at least an hour before bed.
Now, here are some sleep tips from James MacFarlane, a professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at the University of Toronto, and a clinical consultant for MedSleep in Toronto.
- 1. Explore your sleep requirement: Everybody is different, with a range from 6-9 hours. Most people need about 7.5 hours/night. If you’re only getting 7 but have a biological need for 8, you gradually get into a state of chronic sleep deprivation. Simply adding 30 minutes of time in bed may gradually lead to a significant improvement in daytime performance.
2. Nap:If you are unable to get your requisite number of hours, you could explore the option of strategic napping. A 30-minute nap taken between 2-5 pm (the afternoon sleep gate) can be disproportionately restorative, and may actually be worth one hour of nocturnal sleep. Many cultures do this on a daily basis. But beware: for some, napping in the afternoon can interfere with sleep at night.
3. Keep your wake-up time fairly consistent [even on weekends]: Rise time is a powerful circadian cue – more important than bedtime. This can help keep your sleep wake cycle in more efficient alignment.
4. Excessive alcohol ruins sleep: 1 or 2 drinks have little influence. But excessive intake at any time of the day leaves you in a state of high nervous system activation later in the night. This will cause increased sleep fragmentation, increased dreaming, heart arrhythmia (for some), and increased urinary output. The result is a very unsatisfactory sleep.
And here are some more ideas, suggestions pulled from the internet and experience, a few of which are more common knowledge and common sense:
- 1. Stop eating junk: You’re going to feel better and have more energy if you eat well and cut out the things that bog you down, like heavy carb loads and piles of fat. Eat whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and protein. Sorry. It’s boring but it’s true. Pizza and doughnuts make you tired.
2. Drink lots of water: Dehydration thickens your blood, says WebMD, and is energy zapping. Make sure you stay hydrated during the day.
3. Exercise: You always feel better after you exercise, right? Even if you didn’t feel like it, you’re always glad you did it. Regular exercise means better sleep and better sleep means more energetic waking hours.
4. Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening: Caffeine gives you a boost, which can be helpful in the morning, says WebMD, but if you drink coffee, tea or caffeinated soft drinks later in the day it can interfere with nighttime sleep.
5. Meditate: Meditation lowers stress and anxiety and improves focus, all of which leads to better sleep and more energy.
6. Focus on the task at hand: Be mindful of each task and avoid stressing over the pig picture of everything you have to do next. Stressing is exhausting and doesn’t actually help accomplish anything. Move calmly from task to task.
7. Breathe: Check your breathing RIGHT NOW. I bet you’re breathing shallowly. How are you supposed to have enough energy if you’re not getting enough oxygen? Set a timer to go off a few times during the day and check in with your breath, then deepen it. Eventually you’ll do this on your own.
This story was originally published on October 20, 2014.