You may be surprised to learn what I’ve done with my schedule.
I’m in the middle of a major project – writing a nonfiction book about wellbeing – and I need more time and energy. In the past, I would have crammed it into my already busy calendar. So, did I schedule my Saturdays?
Did I book my evenings that are devoted to family time?
Not this time!
Well then, how am I finding the time and energy to write a book?
I’m getting eight hours of sleep each night.
That’s right, people. EIGHT HOURS of beautiful, silky, rejuvenating sleep. It may seem counter-intuitive, but it’s true – a good night of sleep equates to fewer hours at work!
Why? Because the better our sleep, the more alert, creative, and productive we are the next day. YES!
As a wellness coach, I’ve heard many stories from people burning out in the nonprofit sector. Not having enough sleep is a huge drain on our internal resources. Sometimes employees cultivate donors late in the evenings, yet they’re expected to be sitting at their desks first thing the next morning. They are physically there, tapping at the keyboard, but their minds are blurry and their spirits are dampened.
They are far from their best.
Our American culture, including the world of fundraising, rewards us for the number of hours we plug away at our projects. It is critical that at all times we be “busy.” We are rarely rewarded for our productivity and efficiency. If we were, we would be encouraged to go home earlier, spend time with our families, get a solid night’s sleep – and arrive again the next day, refreshed and rejuvenated. You can find tips for managers near the end of this post.
Sleep is the foundation of our life. To be at our best, we need seven to nine hours of high-quality sleep each night, according to the National Sleep Foundation. A whopping 79% of Americans don’t get the minimum seven hours of sleep each night, according to a 2016 study by SleepScore Labs. What happens when we shortchange ourselves?
Nothing good. Impacts of poor sleep include:
- Reduced work efficiency
- Reduced decision-making skills
- Slower than normal reaction time
- Loss of motivation
- Poor memory
- Reduced concentration
- Mood fluctuations
Sounds fun, right? Our bodies suffer as well, and the costs from long-term sleep deprivation are staggering. Not getting enough sleep over time puts us at greater risk of:
- Heart Disease
- Breast Cancer
- Accelerated aging
Sleep is serious business! Here are some suggestions:
Seven Sleepytime Tips
1) Remove all screens from the bedroom.
Yep, this is for real and it’s a bit of a bummer. Research shows that screens inhibit the deep sleep our bodies need. Keep your laptop in your study, watch TV in your den, read a real book instead of your ipad, and charge your phone in another room.
But my phone is my alarm clock, you say. . . Companies still make alarm clocks. Find a fun one and go retro! I recently bought one with bunny ears – because it makes me giggle.
If this is too hard core, consider turning off all screens 90 minutes before bedtime to avoid the negative effects on your melatonin, a sleep hormone. In addition, either turn off your phone or set it on do not disturb, so that the reminders and notifications don’t disrupt your sleep.
2) Go to sleep and wake up at regular times – even on the weekends.
This one is tough for me, being an uber night-owl who wants to stay up late on Saturdays. But for folks who suffer from insomnia, keeping the same hours strengthens your circadian rhythm.
3) Use your bed for all good things – sleep, sex, soothing music, and perhaps some meditation and reflections on gratitude.
If you have to work at home in the evenings, do it anywhere but in your bed. Keep all work materials out of your bedroom.
4) Make your bedroom your sanctuary – cozy, comfortable, and quiet.
Soothing colors like blues and greens make us feel peaceful, while lined curtains keep out unwanted light from streetlamps. If your sweetie snores, consider ear plugs or a sleep machine that gently drowns out ambient noise.
5) Think twice about what you put in your body.
Stop drinking coffee at least six to seven hours before bedtime. Alcohol and sleeping pills are sedatives, but they don’t have the restorative benefits of natural sleep.
6) If you’re stewing over something and can’t stop, consider using a “Worry Book” or a “God Box.”
Write down your concerns and fears, then close the book or shut the box. It’s time to let it go, at least for the moment. The universe can handle it while you sleep.
7) You’ll enjoy deeper sleep if you exercise regularly.
Make sure you stop exercising at least three hours before you go to bed.
These seven tips will improve your sleep, but if you want to really increase your productivity, consider a nap in the early afternoon. Yes, a lovely, delicious, 20-minute power nap.
We sleep in five stages that recur throughout the night. The beauty of a power nap is that it includes just the first two (be sure to set an alarm so you don’t slip into deeper stages of sleep). Benefits include an increase in productivity, alertness, and stamina. People also experience improved memory and learning, as well as less stress.
Without a nap, your brain activity declines. By the end of the day, you may be pushing through projects, feeling depleted. You end up working longer hours, thinking you’re accomplishing more – when in fact you would be more effective if you took a break and rejuvenated.
If taking a real nap seems unacceptable in your workplace, you have options. Close your door and turn out the lights, resting in your chair for a few minutes. In a cubicle, you can close your eyes and focus on deep breaths. Another option is to rest in your car during your lunch break.
Remember that taking a nap doesn’t mean you’re lazy – instead, it means you want to deliver meaningful work in a timely manner for your organization. You want to be MORE productive, not less.
A Culture of Wellbeing
I’m passionate about helping nonprofits create a Culture of Wellbeing, where employees are cherished. If you are a team leader, consider four things:
- Get a good night’s sleep yourself, for your own benefit as well as for your team;
- Ask yourself – Do you most value your employees who work the longest hours, or those who produce the greatest results?
- Encourage your employees to minimize their overtime, and allow them to sleep in the morning following evening events; and
- Take power naps or restful breaks, modeling for your employees how to rejuvenate during the day.
I encourage you to track the hours you sleep. How many hours of sleep do you average each week? You deserve to live a healthier, longer, and more meaningful life – and sleep helps make that a reality.
We can do it!
P.S. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and fatigued, I can help you as a wellness coach. Click here for information on my programs.