by Sabrina Son
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that workers aren’t as productive as they can be when they show up to work exhausted.
Researchers at Harvard say that sleepy workers are more likely to cause accidents at work, and they’re more likely to be in terrible moods. It’s also more difficult for tired workers to focus on the task at hand or perform higher-level cognitive functions.
If you’re regularly tired during the workweek, you can take solace in the fact that you’re not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 41 million American workers don’t get enough sleep during the week. This is perhaps part of the reason why nearly 70% of employees feel as though they can’t get all of their job responsibilities done every week, as evidenced in our Employee Engagement Report.
Reaching your full potential at the office is much easier if you’re well-rested. With that in mind, let’s take a look at eight tips that should help you get a better night’s sleep.
1. Go to sleep at a reasonable hour
WebMD says the average adult needs about eight hours of sleep each night. So figure out what time you have to wake up and work backwards from there.
You can’t expect to get a good night’s sleep if you’re trying to cram it into a couple of hours. You're not 20 years old anymore (or maybe you are?), so don’t expect you’ll be able to pull off burning the candle at both ends.
2. Hack your sleeping environment
You won’t sleep well if your bed is made of cinder blocks and your face is illuminated by neon lights the entire night.
To get a better night’s sleep, hack your sleeping environment. Figure out how to make your bedroom as dark as possible — you can use tinfoil to black out your windows completely if you’re trying to take it to that extreme. You’ll also want to make your bed as comfortable as possible. If you haven’t done it yet, consider buying a memory-foam mattress topper or memory-foam pillows for a deeper sleep.
3. Stop checking your email before you go to sleep
You might think that checking your email on your phone as you’re going to sleep is a great way to win the favor of your boss and coworkers. The behavior proves your commitment.
And maybe it does. But according to Dr. Dan Siegel, glancing at a screen before you go to bed sends a message to your brain telling it to stay awake. Screens send a stream of photons to our brains, which work to delay the release of melatonin, a hormone which helps us sleep.
Looking at screens before bedtime makes us more likely to suffer from an impaired memory and a shorter attention span the next day, according to Dr. Siegel. Additionally, it can also be toxic to the connections in the cells in our brains.
4. Exercise frequently — but not right before bed
Studies have shown that exercise can help us sleep much more soundly at night. In fact, WebMDsays people are able to sleep much better each night if they get an average of 150 minutes of exercise each week. But don’t go for a run before hopping into bed.
When we exercise, our heart rates accelerate and our body temperatures heat up. In this state, sleeping becomes difficult because our bodies are active and alert.
According to healthgrades, it can take as long as six hours before our bodies revert to normal levels following an exercise session. So whenever possible, do your best to exercise in the morning or during the day. The later you wait to break a sweat, the harder it may be to fall asleep that night.
5. Don’t hit the snooze button
You wouldn’t be a human if you weren’t tempted to hit your snooze button every morning. But according to science, you might want to think twice about catching those extra nine minutes of sleep.
Though it might sound counterintuitive, you’ll probably wake up feel groggier after hitting the snooze button than you would if you just got out of bed the first time your alarm rang. Why? Because if you fall back to sleep, you’ll start a whole new sleep cycle. And then when your alarm goes off the second time, you’ll be in a deeper sleep than you were when it woke you up the first time.
When you really think about it, how much do you need those extra nine minutes anyway? If you feel groggy in the morning, experiment with not hitting the snooze button. The results may surprise you.
6. Switch to decaf in the afternoon
Most people try to jump-start their mornings by ingesting caffeine. For most folks, it’s coffee and tea. (But there are the ones who slug sodas first thing in the morning too.) If you’ve got a lot of work to do, you may be tempted to keep chugging caffeine all day long to give you the energy to get through your work. But that behavior might make it incredibly difficult for you to fall asleep.
The staff over at LiveStrong suggests you cease your caffeine consumption at least six hours before hitting the sack.
7. Eat dinner early in the evening
Humans weren’t meant to gorge on meals and immediately retire to bed. Digestion takes a lot of energy, and the process is made considerably easier when we stand up or sit down (thanks to gravity).
Eating dinner earlier in the evening not only will likely result in a better night’s rest, but you’ll also be less likely to develop acid reflux or other ailments, according to Business Insider.
8. Meditate when you hit the pillow
Are you one of those people whose problems seem to invade your consciousness the moment you lie down in bed? If so, give meditation a try. When you get in bed, reflect on your day. Say prayers if you’re religious. Count sheep. Try alternate breathing patterns. Head over to mindbodygreen for some additional bedtime meditation tricks and techniques.
Becoming the best worker you can be starts with getting a good night’s rest. You’re not a robot. You need sleep.
This article originally appeared on TINYpulse.