Grow Your Career
Want to be a rock star at work? Get more sleep.
This story is part of "The Better You," an original Chase series that explores how wellness relates to work, productivity, career mobility, and prosperity.
We work long hours, and often juggle kids, friends, and community activities. With so many demands on our time, it's easy to say we're too busy to get a full night's sleep. But the truth is, forgoing those precious eight hours of sleep to work can actually do more harm than good.
In a recent Career Builder survey, 60 percent of workers said their lack of sleep has impacted their work performance. Another study—published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine—found that people who don't get enough sleep are generally less productive—and those fatigue-related productivity losses add up to almost $2,000 per employee every year.
That's a big deal. And that's partly why in the last few years, there's been more talk about the importance of sleep. In early 2017, for example, Ariana Huffington published "The Sleep Revolution," a rigorous, well-received examination of sleep's value.
When one of Karen Elizaga's clients unintentionally gained the reputation of being moody and difficult to work with, the executive coach gave a seemingly simple recommendation: get a good night's sleep. She also urged him to commit to arriving to work early. Within weeks, Elizaga's client was noticeably more upbeat, and collaborative with his staff.
"His CEO called me a miracle worker, and I think that was mostly because of his sleep," says Elizaga, author of "Find Your Sweet Spot: A Guide to Personal and Professional Excellence."
Want to be a more productive employee? Here's what you should do before, during, and after bed:
The pre-bedtime routine
Nancy Rothstein, director of Circadian Corporate Sleep Programs, says your bedtime ritual should include a lot more than brushing your teeth and washing your face. "Prepare for sleep like you'd prepare for a meeting or vacation," she advises, adding: "Set an alarm an hour before going to sleep, and that's your cue to start powering down."
During this hour, Rothstein and Elizaga emphasize the importance of minimizing the use of phones, laptops, and TV, as they're too stimulating to your senses and brain to facilitate restfulness. Consider turning off your electronic devices one hour before bedtime, to help your body fall asleep.
It is also advised to cut out alcohol and caffeine at least four hours before bed, because both elements can make it difficult for you to fall asleep, and stay there.
The bedtime routine
It's easy for your mind to race as soon as you crawl into bed, and no matter how exhausted your body is, your stream of consciousness can keep you from actually falling asleep. Rothstein says focusing on breathing and your physical presence can keep your mind from wandering. Another tactic for keeping the brain focused on the positive—and the present—is considering things that you're grateful for. "It's a mindfulness practice, and it's efficient," she explains. "Even if you had a rough day, or are stressed, gratitude is a beautiful way to go to sleep."
Don't think breathing or meditation will do the trick? There's an app for that. "There's so many apps that help you meditate, and there are even meditation apps that specifically focus on helping you fall asleep," Elizaga adds.
Sleep masks, form fitting pillow and mattresses, and even earplugs can further shut out the distractions and help promote a better sleep.
Whatever you do, Rothstein recommends not looking at your clock as you toss and turn. "It'll send your brain racing," she explains. "Turn it around, cover it—just don't look at it!"
The morning routine
Make no mistake, a good night's sleep doesn't end with an alarm. In fact, transitioning out of sleep can be just as vital to staying well-rested as transitioning into it. "It's really important, physiologically, to get exposure to daylight and start moving in the morning," said Rothstein.
She also strongly discourages hitting the snooze button. "If you press it more than once you're just wasting good sleep," she says.
Instead, Rothstein recommends putting the alarm at the other end of the room. This will force you to get out of bed to turn off the alarm. While you're up, she adds, try making your bed. Not only will it keep from slipping back into bed, you'll have one less thing on your to-do list.
Clocking in the recommended eight hours can help you feel more awake and improve your performance at work. Often, a well-rested employee is a more efficient and effective employee. With the right routines in place, you'll be more alert throughout the day and ready to take on any task at hand.
Jared Lindzon is a Chase News contributor. His work has appeared in Fast Company, Fortune Magazine, and Rolling Stone.