A shorter sleep of just 16 minutes than usual can cause serious problems with focusing and concentration the next day. Irregular sleep can, therefore, be quite bewildering in both private and professional life, a merry-go-round of stress and fatigue. What do scientists say about our habits and can the problem of irregular or disturbed sleep be solved?
The risk of conflicts
Specialists agree that if we do not sleep well at night, we cannot expect to be able to work effectively the following day. Researchers from the University of South Florida in the Journal of the National Sleep Foundation published research results in which 130 Information Technology employees took part. Each of them had at least one school-age child. The results showed that reducing night time rest by up to 16 minutes causes hormonal imbalance.
According to the researchers, the day after a reduced sleep our cognitive abilities, and the ability to focus on tasks drastically decrease. This, in turn, increases the level of stress, which interferes with the balance between professional and family life. Therefore, more problems will arise which means an increased likelihood of conflicts occurring in every field of our lives.
The common solution to the problem of emerging fatigue is to go to sleep early and awaken earlier the next day, which disturbs our normal daily rhythm.
“Such cyclic dependencies show that the quality of sleep also depends on the amount of our everyday stress and may also contribute to its increase and the creation of a vicious circle”, emphasizes Professor Soomi Lee, the author of the publication.
She further explains that “the results of this study show that employers should put more effort into promoting the good sleep of their employees. Well-rested people will achieve better results at work thanks to the ability to concentrate, less frequent mistakes and fewer conflicts with others”.
What are good practices
However, our employer might not support such practices or initiatives, so we would then need to commence good sleep and rest strategies ourselves, both in the workplace and at home.
These good practices involve regulating the times for sleep and awakening. On weekends and on days off, it is best to keep the same regular pattern, allowing only one-hour difference.
It is useful to take advantage of breaks at work – a lunch break should be used for a meal, not catching up on work. It is also worth taking breaks of a few minutes every hour and leaving the desk.
After work, try to forget about business duties. If possible, leave a work laptop at work and put the mobile phone in the drawer over the weekend. Also, try to slow down during free time and focus on your passions or interests.
Mindfulness training is very useful and if you have children you can include them in these exercises. Describe together exactly what you see at that moment outside the window, what colours surround you and what sounds you are able to hear. While lying in bed, it is also worth focusing on each and every part of your body for a few seconds.
Do not let yourself become sensory overloaded which unfortunately is an increasingly common condition. Overstimulation and exhaustion from incoming information interfere with your sleep and rest. A quilt or a sensory blanket (also called weighted) can be useful as it has a soothing effect on the nervous system and reduces the amount of cortisol produced while increasing serotonin. You can also take this to work and cover yourself during the day.
Having a clean and uncluttered environment, both at work and home is an important tool in the fight against fatigue. Only a few simple rules are required: remove everything that is not absolutely necessary from the countertop, group items, put things away, and try to keep the desk clean for as long as possible to work more efficiently and enable fast location of the things you need. Such practices apply equally well at home. It is difficult to feel restful when surrounded by mess so keeping your apartment clean really helps!