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Sleep Deserves Way More Respect Than We’re Giving It – 12 Tips to Improve Yours

Emma Tekstra > Solutions  > Sleep Deserves Way More Respect Than We’re Giving It – 12 Tips to Improve Yours

Sleep Deserves Way More Respect Than We’re Giving It – 12 Tips to Improve Yours

For 25 years I had a global job that was rewarding and fascinating as I worked daily with colleagues in every timezone. Being based in California had its advantages as I could easily catch Europe at the start of my day and Asia at the end of my day. It became second nature to me and the rhythms of my week did not seem a hardship. My regular start time was 6am often jumping straight into conference or video calls and at least a couple of times a week I had online meetings into the evening at 9pm. I made sure in between I was able to juggle my kids’ activities and 5-7pm was family dinnertime so sleep often had to be the sacrifice. If this sounds familiar to you, your long-term health may be far more impacted than you think.

I urge you to read the review I recently posted of Matthew Walker’s book Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams. I give a summary of the book and some of the key highlights but mostly it drives home the critical importance of getting a solid 7-8 hours sleep each and every night.


Some employers are recognizing that sleep is a vital pillar of employee wellness rather than applauding those who forego it. One study calculated that sleep deprivation costs the US economy up to US$400 bn a year, Japan up to US$140bn. As a percentage of GDP US, UK, Japan and Germany were all around 2% with Japan faring the worst at 2.9% of GDP lost. Sleep deprived employees are less creative, less productive, more susceptible to illness and tend to have more mental health problems. Walker also explains the studies that have shown sleep deprived employees are more unethical and exhibit poorer leadership skills. It is simply not good business sense to promote unhealthy work schedules and champion sleep deprivation.

12 Tips to Improve Your Own Sleep

Make sleep a priority in your schedule. Set boundaries on your work or other commitments. Try to have a consistent bedtime and wake time every day (including weekends).


Don’t use the Snooze button. This just keeps interrupting your natural sleep cycles. Once you are getting enough rest you should be able to wake up naturally or as soon as the alarm goes off.


Avoid caffeine and nicotine which are stimulants. I avoid them altogether but particularly avoid after lunch. Caffeine has a half-life of 5-7hrs (which means it’s only reduced by half after that time and continues to affect your natural sleep whether you feel it or not).


Avoid alcohol before bed. You might enjoy the sedating effects but this is not natural sleep. It robs you of REM sleep and you won’t be getting the benefits of a restful full night of sleep.


Finish eating 2-3 hours before bedtime. Late night snacking and beverages can interfere with a good night’s sleep if your body is still digesting. There are other health properties of extending the time you let your body fast overnight.


Avoid taking medications that can disrupt sleep patterns such as common heart, blood pressure and asthma medications as well as some over-the-counter remedies for coughs and colds. Some medications deplete the body of melatonin which helps you fall asleep, and some deplete magnesium which can contribute to poor sleep.


Don’t nap in the early evening. A brief power nap early afternoon can be helpful (no more than 30mins) but later napping can make it harder to fall asleep at bedtime.


Avoid computers and cell phones just before bed. The blue light can disrupt your sleep mechanisms. Do relaxing activities in a low light environment such as reading or listening to music.


Take a hot bath just before bed, perhaps with some Epsom Salts to infuse magnesium into your body. The bath helps you relax and the drop in body temperature when you get out can make you sleepy.


Make sure your bedroom is optimized for sleeping. No gadgets (my household all leave our cell phones downstairs and we have no TVs in the bedroom), totally dark avoiding street lights or even the glow of an alarm clock, and cooler than daytime temperatures.


Don’t exercise just before bed. Regular exercise will help your sleep but avoid it within 2-3 hours of bedtime.


Try and get exposure to morning sun. This will help set your natural clock. If possible wake up with the sun, keep bright light exposure during the day, and turn down the lights heading towards bedtime. Early morning walks are a great idea!

Since I’ve left my global job and focused on improving my sleep I have been waking up naturally with the sun fully refreshed with other aspects of my health noticeably improving. While I’m not suggesting a career change is the only way, if you are suffering from health problems I highly recommend you focus on sleep as a first line (and very cost effective) strategy!

Emma Tekstra
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