Health and Wellness

Sleeping off the Job: Establishing Healthy Sleep Habits for Improved Productivity

October 31, 2019

Sleeping soundly may seem impossible for some people. Here are some things you can do to promote rest at night, so that you can be productive each day.

Sleeping off the Job Cover Image 1

Sleep is a necessity.  According to research, it ranks right up there with diet and exercise.  Furthermore, some experts argue that sleeping well might even be more important than a good diet and sufficient exercise combined.  So, it is no surprise that doctors, life coaches, and even advertisements encourage us to seek better sleep.

Sleep for This, and Sleep for That

Now, sleep is twofold.  First, you need sleep to go to work and to be productive there.  Second, you need it to rest and recover from your laborious day.  Then, hit repeat.  So, if you aren’t getting rest, it can be difficult to find the motivation to want to go to work, much less to be productive while you are there.  If you can’t sleep after you’ve been at work, your body and your mind can’t recover.  Consequently, you’ll start the next day on an empty tank.  Then, you’ll hit repeat.

Due to the importance of sleep, it’s time for us to see if we are doing anything to sabotage our efforts. Also we can identify some things that can help us catch some Zs.  If we are sleeping well, we can plan on working well, and then hitting repeat will be easier to do each day.

All Things Sleep

So, you are probably sitting there thinking about how you try hard to get sleep.  You go to bed at 10:00 p.m. and you get up at 6:00 a.m. five days per week.  However, you just can’t fall asleep until midnight.  Or, you fall asleep fine, but you find yourself tossing and turning in the middle of the night, or wide awake at 2:00 a.m.  If this is you, let’s take a deeper look into some of the things we know to be true about getting better rest.


To start this list, let’s discuss something many of us feel helps sleep:  an alcoholic beverage.  While some say that a drink or two helps them fall asleep, the truth is that the alcohol converts into sugar, which converts into energy.  Consequently, while our nightcaps may knock us out temporarily, it’s likely that we are actually sleeping fitfully thereafter. So, now would be a good time to ask yourself if it’s worth your nightly nightcap routine in lieu of restful slumber.


Sometimes it can be difficult to remember to consume the recommended ounces of water each day.  Then, at the end of the day, we end up parched or feeling guilty, so we try to make up the deficit by chugging water late in the day.  However, this is a bad idea where sleep is concerned.  Remember that drinking too much water too close to bedtime can result in bathroom runs in the middle of the night.  So, try to limit water intake before bed if you want to avoid waking due to an active bladder.

Exercise and Sleep

Having excess energy at the end of the day can prevent you from falling asleep easily or getting a restful night sleep.  However, you can often solve that problem with a good workout.  Still, you will want to figure out the best time of day to workout.  The National Sleep Foundation says that working out at certain times affects people differently.  For some people, working out too close to bedtime can work against them.  For others, it helps them sleep.  On one hand, lifting weights in the morning may help you fall asleep faster.  On the other hand, evening workouts could help you doze deeper and more restfully.  Therefore, you will want to be mindful of when you decide to hit the gym.  In other words, pay attention to your body.  Adjust your workout time if you feel like it is affecting your sleep.


While exercise too close to bedtime might have a negative effect on sleeping, yoga is one type of exercise that will typically have a positive impact.  In fact, studies show that more than half of people surveyed have improved sleep after doing yoga.  Furthermore, an estimated 85% of people in the study reported reduced stress. So, if you want to exercise in a way that can foster sleep, yoga may be your answer.

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In our fast-paced society, many of us have included one final dose of screen time in our nightly routine.  Unfortunately, those last few minutes on our devices at night might be just the thing that’s keeping us awake.  If you want to know the science behind it, the devices emit an artificial blue light, which suppresses the body’s release of melatonin.  Your body naturally produces melatonin, which is a hormone that transmits signals to your organs, encouraging sleep. So, unplug early if you care about keeping your circadian rhythm in check.

Reading Yourself to Sleep

Now, you are probably wondering what you should do before bed if you aren’t using a device.  Here’s an idea:  read!  If you leaf through an old-fashioned book, you won’t have to worry about those pesky blue lights, and the act of reading could actually help lull you to sleep.  Just be careful to choose a book that isn’t too stimulating for your brain, otherwise you could end up with thoughts you can’t turn off.


While your diet is important for overall health, it is especially important for sleeping.  Eating certain foods can play a role in sleep.  A few of these foods include bananas, turkey, cottage cheese, and almonds.  Each has properties that are shown to increase serotonin levels in the brain, or contain melatonin. 


Some people get up at 5:00 a.m. for work five days per week, and therefore decide to sleep in until noon on the weekends.  If you are one of those people, you might want to rethink your sleep schedule. While you may feel like you are making up for lost sleep, you could be doing your body more harm than good.  People should shoot for 7-9 hours of sleep per night.  However, be careful of having a sleep schedule that varies too much during the week versus the weekend.  Experts advise against getting off schedule more than an hour, because it can mess up your circadian rhythm.  Then, it will be difficult to easily fall asleep and stay asleep with any kind of pattern.

4/7/8 Breathing

Sometimes despite our best efforts, it just seems impossible to shut off our brains at night.  However, there is a simple trick that is proven effective in helping people clear their minds and achieve sleep.  Dr. Andrew Weil developed a breathing technique involving a deep breath in for four seconds, followed by holding the breath for seven seconds, and finally releasing the breath for eight counts.  If you don’t believe it, just give it a try and see for yourself! Even if you don’t fall asleep immediately, you will probably notice that you experience reduced stress and you feel more relaxed.

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Photo of room with a good temperature for sleep.
Photo by Christine Yanner

Many of us find that we have a difficult time working if the temperature of our environment is too high or too low.  Well, the same thing can be said about sleep.  Believe it or not, sleeping in a room between 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit is the ideal temperature to facilitate sleep.  So, if your room is too hot or too cold, try adjusting the thermostat and see what happens.

Mattress Makes All the Difference in Sleep

It seems like every other commercial on television shows us happy people falling into bed with smiles on their faces as they experience a comfortable and restful night sleep.  While part of that is a gimmick to making a sale, there is a very real benefit to sleeping on a comfortable mattress.  Notably, sleep experts recommend buying a new mattress every 7-10 years.  However, if you have a new mattress, but you’ve discovered that it is keeping you from sleeping comfortably, it’s never too soon to find a mattress that works for you. 


When all else fails, taking certain supplements or vitamin can help improve sleep.  We’ve discussed melatonin several times here, and you can take a melatonin supplement in pill or liquid form.  Unlike prescription sleep drugs, there are no substantial reports of dependence or withdrawal symptoms, so you do not need to worry about addiction. 

Nighty Night, Sleep Tight

At the end of the day, there is no question about whether sleep is important.  However, getting rest might seem like a pipedream for some people.  Still, there are simple things anyone can do to help achieve a restful night’s sleep, but you have to be willing to try them.  So, consider starting with sleep-inducing foods.  If that doesn’t do the trick, rethink your workout routine or how late you are on devices.  Finding the right mattress might also be the solution.  There are many things proven to foster sleep, but you won’t know unless you give them a test run.   Then once you achieve sleep, you will likely see that you are more motivated to go into work, and consequently more productive when you are there.  Repeat that day after day, and you will be sure to experience an improvement in your overall quality of life.

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