Why Focus on Sleep?
Lack of sleep changes how different areas of the brain function. The prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain primarily responsible for higher level cognitive functions, becomes less active when sleep deprived. That can make difficult to use logical reasoning or complex problem-solving. Sleep deprivation also affects concentration, memory, and mathematical abilities, all of which may be necessary during a work-related event.
Reasoning abilities aren’t the only way that sleep deprivation affects behavior. During sleep deprivation, the amygdala, the portion of the brain that processes emotions, becomes more sensitive to negative thoughts and stimuli. These changes can lead to irritability and mood changes that can reflect badly on an employee or the company for which he works.
Lack of sleep is also a productivity and safety issue. Impaired judgment can lead to accidents and costly mistakes. Events from the Exxon Valdez oil spill to the Challenger disaster have links back to sleep-deprived employees. While attending an event while drowsy may not put your life at risk, without adequate sleep your career could stagnate or even stop in its tracks.
How Stress Affects Sleep
Though sleep is a natural biological function, it can be elusive at times, especially if you’re under a lot of stress. With the pressure of a big event looming overhead, you might find yourself dealing with symptoms of chronic stress like:
- Social withdrawal
- Emotional outbursts
- Lack of motivation
- Inability to concentrate or focus
By focusing on getting a consecutive seven to eight hours of sleep, you give your brain and body a chance to normalize while you put your best foot forward.
How to Improve the Quality (and Quantity) of Your Sleep
A few ways you can help yourself get more high-quality sleep include:
- Remove Distractions: Distractions in the bedroom can keep your mind turning late into the night. Try turning off the ringer on your phone or even better charge it outside of your bedroom. Lights from other electronic devices like televisions or Blu-ray players can also cause wakefulness. You can either remove them from the bedroom or put electrical tape over the light to prevent a sleep disruption.
- Make Comfort a Priority: A mattress that supports your preferred sleep style can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Mattress reviews may help you determine which bed is best for you. Bedding that’s made of natural materials like cotton or linen breathe well to prevent overheating and get softer over time for increased comfort.
- Keep the Room Dark: Natural light signals and controls your body’s sleep-wake cycle. To help your brain know when to release sleep hormones, try to keep your bedroom as dark as possible. That may mean blackout curtains or heavy drapes to block out light pollution.
- Turn Off Electronics: You might want to go over a proposal or client profile one more time before going to bed. However, the bright blue light given off by some electronics including laptops and smartphones can suppress the release of sleep hormones. Turn off your devices at least two to three hours before bed to prevent a delay in the onset of sleep.