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Published on April 2, 2019

Why You’ve Reached the Point of Burn out at Work & How to Deal with It

Why You’ve Reached the Point of Burn out at Work & How to Deal with It

You’ve finally hit a wall and enough is enough. You’re not just stressed—you’re feeling physically, mentally, and maybe even emotionally burnt out.

When serious exhaustion sets in and you either feel completely indifferent or totally repulsed by your job, you have to start taking action toward restoring balance not only in your professional life, but in your personal life too. Sources of stress can’t always be eliminated, but their negative effects can certainly be minimized.

What if you could walk into work and actually feel enthusiastic about taking on your tasks for the day? Believe it or not, it’s possible to go from dreading those tasks and suffering through them to embracing them and enjoying the challenge.

Burnout doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in the wrong job. It might just mean that your approach to your work life isn’t currently working for you.

Once you identify and understand what has led you to burn out, you can examine your experiences under a mindful microscope to expand your level of self-awareness. Only then can you work to counteract the effects of burn out with specific lifestyle changes, habits, and mental practices.

By implementing some of the strategies shared in this article, you might save yourself weeks, months, and even years of prolonged suffering. Because when it comes to burnout, you can’t really make a full recovery by simply waiting for it to go away.

Read on to discover what some of the leading causes of burnout are and what you can do to get back to a place of happiness and harmony.

1. You Sacrifice Your Own Self-Care for Your Job, Your Family, and Others Who Need You

If you’re a people pleaser, then you probably have trouble saying “no” to anyone who asks anything from you.

When you think you have no choice but to say “yes” to your boss, your coworkers, your partner, your kids, your friends, and your relatives, you’re left with little time and energy to devote to doing the things that keep you healthy and happy—like sleeping enough, eating well, and enjoying activities you love. You’re essentially allowing others to dictate how you spend your life.

According to a study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, people who said “I don’t” instead of “I can’t” had more success in avoiding things they didn’t want to do.[1] In other words, it led to a greater sense of self-empowerment.

By remaining aware of the fact that you have a choice in how you decide to spend your time, you can learn to say “no” to others confidently and respectively.

2. You’re Putting Too Many Hours Into Your Work

Working 12 to 16 hours a day or 60 to 80 hours a week doesn’t mean you’re being productive during all or even most of those hours.

A UK study found t hat the average office employee is only productive for 2 hours and 53 minutes out of the entire workday.[2] As if that weren’t bad enough, research has shown that jobs with overtime schedules are associated with a 61% increase in risk of injury;[3] and long periods of sitting in office chairs are as potentially detrimental to workers’ health as smoking.[4]

Working longer hours means you have less downtime to recharge properly, so you might want to rethink staying late at the office, clocking a double shift every so often, or giving up your weekends to try to get more done.

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Examine where you can cut back on your time spent at work—particularly during your most unproductive hours. If your workplace won’t allow it, you might need to consider working somewhere that will.

3. You’re Constantly Connected to Your Work Via Your Devices

Many professionals check their work email first thing when they get up and continue checking after work hours, meaning they never truly get a chance to disconnect and relax a little.

Remaining available to answer emails or take calls during non-work hours has been linked to higher levels of stress and anxiety in workers.[5] Even just the anticipation of receiving emails or calls during non-work hours can cause negative effects.

You might need to have a chat with your boss, coworkers, or clients about your electronic availability during non-work hours if there’s an expectation to answer emails and calls at all times of the day and night. Once you’ve clarified this, you can turn off notifications, put your devices on Do Not Disturb or turn them off altogether when you’re not at work.

4. You Work in a Toxic Environment

Working with patronizing authoritative figures and coworkers can be downright degrading and humiliating, leading to feelings of isolation and resentment.

When there’s a breakdown of workplace community, your sense of belonging is compromised. One study showed that the number of people who’ve admitted to feeling like they have nobody to talk to about relevant topics has nearly tripped between 1985 and 2004—suggesting that despite people spending so much time at work, the relationships they have with their colleagues are not necessarily high-quality ones.[6]

Practice separating yourself from negative energy at work so that even when you do have to engage with colleagues, you have mental and emotional boundaries in place.

Look toward the most positive and trustworthy people at your workplace and work toward building relationships with them. Even if you don’t work directly with them, having them there can help increase your sense of connection and belonging.

Finally, avoid taking work issues home with you. Instead of venting to your partner about a problem going on at work, focus on letting it go by engaging in activities that take your mind off of it, lift you up, and remind you of what you’re grateful for in life.

5. Your Workload Is Too Heavy

There’s only one of you and there are only so many hours in a day to get your work done.

When there are too many tasks, projects that are overly complex, or requests that are unrealistically urgent piled onto your plate, the stress and overwhelm of it all can be too much to bear. Research has shown that employees with heavy workloads have difficulty balancing work and family life and are at a higher risk of emotional exhaustion.[7]

The only way to combat work overload is by offloading less urgent tasks, getting help and support from other colleagues, and postponing deadlines. Figuring out how to balance work and life comes down to prioritization, which requires getting real about your own energy expenditure and time limitations.

6. You Never Take a Vacation

If you’re a workaholic, you might not even realize that you’re hopelessly addicted to your work and haven’t taken any time off in what might seem like forever.

Maybe you’re worried about all the work that will pile up when you’re gone or you want to keep working as proof of your dedication to what you do. But the costs of not taking any real time off include decreased productivity and creativity.[8] It can even exasperate office tension, workplace accidents, work-related mistakes, stress, fatigue, and illnesses.

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If you feel unwilling to go away for as long as a week, try something shorter—like a weekend. You can even make it a staycation to start.

Eventually, if you spend your time off going places and doing things you love, you’ll start to become aware of the restorative benefits of taking your vacation time, and you might even inspire colleagues do the same.

7. You See Your Job As Your Identity

It’s important to feel passionate about and connected to what you do, but when all or most of your accomplishment, pleasure, and self-worth comes from your work performance, it can be hard to deal with things when they don’t go your way.

You’re far more likely to burn out if you place little value on other areas of your life like relationships and hobbies. The people in your life and the activities you enjoy can serve as effective pick-me-ups when work life gets rough.

Try making a list of all the relationships and hobbies or activities you have in your life that you love. Then rank them in order of importance and brainstorm ideas for how you can start devoting more time and energy toward them.

8. You Feel Like You Don’t Have Any Control

When you don’t have enough freedom to have a say in how decisions at work are made, or what your schedule looks like, or what the most important goals should be, you might find yourself feeling more cynical and less motivated.

A study found that people with high-stress jobs and little control over their workflow live shorter lives or are less healthy overall compared to people who have more of a say in how they handle their schedules and work.[9] Control is important for maintaining your sense of autonomy at work.

Depending on your position, you might be able to go ahead and take control of your schedule and workflow the way you see fit—as long as you complete the work needed and hit your goals.

If not, you might have to have a discussion with your manager or boss and come to an agreeable decision about how to make your workflow more flexible in a way that benefits both you and your boss’s expectations.

9. Your Efforts Are Not Recognized or Rewarded

There’s nothing more demeaning than having your work go unnoticed or taken for granted by your colleagues and superiors.

It turns out that when it comes to work, recognition matters more than pay. 70% of respondents to a survey admitted that they could not place a dollar value on their most meaningful experiences of recognition.[10]

You can’t exactly walk into your boss’s office and start demanding more recognition for what you do, but you can make an effort to keep your boss updated on your accomplishments, build a better relationship with them and take initiative with additional tasks or issues that they bring up.

When sharing your accomplishments, make sure you emphasize the benefit it had on the organization as a whole.

To get more recognition from other colleagues, start by recognizing theirs. Those who appreciate your recognition will take notice and likely return the favor.

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10. You’re Being Treated Unfairly

It’s hard seeing colleagues get promoted when you think they didn’t serve it, or witnessing hiring or compensation decisions that seem to be based on biased opinion or favoritsm.

According to a workplace survey by workforce management software company Kronos, unfair compensation was the top contributor to employee burnout at 41%, followed by unreasonable workload and overtime work at 32%.[11] Unfair treatment at work can suck the drive to achieve right out of you, leaving you feeling disheartened and disengaged.

To feel as if you’re being treated fairly, you must get clear on what you need to do to be rewarded, compensated appropriately, or promoted. Ask your manager or boss what you need to do, and then do it.

If you still don’t receive the compensation or promotion that you think you deserve even after doing everything you were told you should do to get it, consider working somewhere else where your efforts are actually valued and save yourself from exasperating the effects of burnout.

11. You Don’t See Any Clear Way to Advance Your Position

You’ve stopped learning, you’re stuck doing the same thing day in day out, and you feel trapped in a dead-end job.

The human brain is hardwired for novelty and gains pleasure from taking on tasks that are just challenging enough to tackle, so a workflow that’s too routine or too drudgerous will slowly drain the sprit right out of you.

When there’s no way up and nothing different to do, you’ll start to care less and less about your work at all.

Even if there’s no higher position to work toward, you can still find new and meaningful ways to learn and challenge yourself. If you’re not sure how, talk to your boss or colleagues about shaking up your workflow.

If a significant shake-up at work just can’t happen, consider doing the best you can with what you have to do while focusing your efforts on learning and being challenged outside of work. Get back to an old hobby, start a new side hustle, or join a club to help balance those boring workdays or shifts.

12. Your Personal Core Values Conflict With the Values of Your Workplace.

When what you have to do at work violates something that you believe in and stand for, your sense of integrity suffers.

In order to keep working at an organization where its values are out of alignment with your own, you basically have to kill those parts of yourself that have always helped define who you are.

This is very difficult to do, given that your core values are typically ingrained in early childhood and remain in your subconscious mind throughout your adult life without you even being aware of them.

The first step you should take is identify what you truly stand for. Next, you have to consider what’s meaningful about your work versus what could slowly kill you inside, and then weigh them against each other.

If you find that there’s not enough to fulfill you by staying, you’ll likely need to prepare to find another job that’s more closely aligned with your values since your subconscious will lead you down the road anyway.

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13. You’re a Perfectionist About Your Work

You might have extremely high personal standards about your work performance, leaving no room for error.

Perfectionists are known to be extremely self-critical—even when things go right (but worse when things go wrong). It’s no surprise that research links perfectionism to burnout, suggesting that it’s more of a self-destructive trait rather than a sign of virtue.[12]

As a perfectionist, you have to learn how to adopt a growth mindset (as opposed t o a fixed mindset) by seeing mistakes and failures as an opportunity to improve.

You also have to learn to practice self-compassion when work goes less than perfectly if you want to become a more resilient worker.

14. You’re Really Only in It for the Money.

Work is work, but if every component of it feels completely meaningless and unfulfilling, then something is seriously wrong.

A whopping 87% of employees worldwide feel disengaged with their work.[13] If you’re one of them, your disengagement could lead to your downfall (by demotion, layoff, or firing).

Finding something fulfilling about your work takes a change in perspective. One way to do this is by putting yourself in the end user’s shoes—the customer or the client. Another way to do this is by looking at the bigger picture and thinking about your organization’s overall mission or goal.

Next, identify the connections between your work and the end user and/or the organization’s mission. This should help you become aware of how your contribution is helping to make a real difference—even if it seems small.

15. Your Genetics Might Make You More Susceptible to Burnout

If you think you’re simply more prone to stress and anxiety than your fellow colleagues, you could be right.

Research has shown that there’s a potential molecular pathway for stress-related traits, suggesting that some people might be naturally more susceptible to burnout than others.[14]

People who were raised by stressed and anxious parents or guardians might also be more susceptible, although this might be more of an environmental factor rather than a genetic one.

You can’t fight genetics, so your best bet is to work with how you’re built. Double down on your self-care by taking time to recharge, getting enough sleep, and engaging in activities that restore your energy—like meditation, exercise, reading, or listening to music.

The Bottom Line

Burnout is no joke, and it doesn’t just go away by ignoring it. If you want to save yourself from having to spend a longer than necessary amount of time trying to recover, you have to start taking action sooner rather than later.

It’s important to view the solution to burnout as a lifestyle balancing act. You’re going to have to identify the contributing factors to your burnout and connect them to all the other parts of your life—including health, relationships, hobbies, core values, and so on—if you want to neutralize it as quickly and as effectively as possible.

More Resources to Help Tackle Burn out

Featured photo credit: Lily Banse via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Elise Moreau

Elise helps desk workers lead healthier lifestyles. Visit her website on her profile to get a free list of health hacks.

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Published on June 12, 2019

How to Sleep for Improved Health and Productivity

How to Sleep for Improved Health and Productivity

Have you ever wondered why your brain feels foggy and your body feels weary after days of burning the “midnight oil”? Well I’ve got just two words for you — inadequate sleep.

Believe it or not, a good night’s sleep is just as important (if not more) as healthy eating and regular exercise, if you’re looking to live a maximally healthy and productive life.

In this article, we’ll be looking at why sleep is so important, how much of it you need and simple science-backed tips on how to sleep that will help you make the most of sleep every night.

So, sit back and relax as I take you on this life-transforming journey to improved health and productivity.

Why Is Sleep so Important?

There are so many health benefits that stem from getting a good night’s sleep. Contrary to what you may think, your body doesn’t actually “sleep” when you sleep. Rather, it is uses this period to carry out some serious “housecleaning” processes that help the mind and body function at maximum efficiency.

Specifically speaking, though, here are some amazing benefits of a good night’s sleep:[1]

  • Help manage the appetite, thereby aiding weight loss
  • Boost the immune system
  • Help to lay off stress
  • Reduce the risk of certain cancers such as colon and breast cancer.
  • Promote memory, focus and proper brain functioning
  • Maintain a healthy heart by regulating the cholesterol levels and blood pressure
  • Reduce the risk of diseases such as diabetes, myocardial infarction and stroke[2]

How Much Sleep Do You Need?

Okay, now that it’s crystal-clear that you need sufficient sleep to keep ticking, just how much sleep is sufficient?

Well, as far as sleep experts and research studies are concerned, you need 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night before you can reap maximum benefits from sleep.[3]

You can learn more about how much you should sleep in this article: Quality or Quantity? Why Don’t You Sleep On It

How to Get the Best out of Sleep Every Single Night

Here’re 10 simple yet power ways to help you sleep well:

1. Stay Away from Blue Light at Bedtime

Exposure to bright light during the day can be a good thing… but at night? Not so much. Research has shown that excessive light exposure prior to bedtime can disrupt sleeping patterns and affect overall sleep quality.

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How exactly does this happen?

There are two mechanisms behind it. First off, there’s something called the circadian rhythm. This is the body’s biological clock that regulates sleeping and waking up. However, during excessively bright nighttime conditions, (or under exposure to blue light from smartphones and laptops), the brain gets tricked into thinking it’s still daytime, therefore it reduces the production of sleep hormones.

And that brings us to our next point — melatonin. Melatonin is also known as the sleep hormone, as it helps the body to relax and fall into deep sleep. And as earlier stated, the production of this hormone is significantly reduced under exposure to blue light generated by smartphones, TV and other electronic gadgets.

So, if you’re used to playing video games, answering emails or tweeting late into the night, you need to put an end to that.[4] In addition, set an earlier bedtime for your electronics. Preferably, try and put your gadgets to sleep two hours before you hit the bed.

However, if you must use these gadgets closer to your bedtime, then wear glass shades that block blue light or download applications like f.lux that can block blue light from laptops or smart-phones.[5]

2. Practice Sleeping and Waking up at Regular Times

Okay, listen up, if you want to get the best out of sleep, then you need to keep things consistent. That means you go to bed at a set time every single day and wake up at the specific time each morning. Research has shown that consistency with sleeping and waking up times greatly improves sleep quality.[6]

Why is that so, you may ask?

Well, as earlier stated, your body has a biological clock and that clock is linked to sunrise and sunset. So, maintaining a consistent bedtime every single day (including weekends) enables your body to release the necessary hormones at the perfect time. This enables you to enjoy a sound sleep through the night and wake up fresh and full of life.

And while on the topic, you may want to consider saying goodbye to movie night, game night and all other nights that will hinder you from sticking to your bedtime. And yes, sleeping-in on weekends is totally off the cards, too, as it can lead to poor sleep.[7]

Now, here’s a challenge — for the next 8 weeks, practice sleeping and waking up at the same time. By the end of the challenge, you might not even need an alarm clock any longer.

3. Stay Away from Alcohol

Okay, listen up, if you want to enjoy a sweet, deeply-refreshing night rest, then you need to steer clear of booze… especially close to bedtime.

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Why on earth would I say that? Well, technically, I’m not the one saying it… it’s all science.

According to a study published in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, it was reported that alcohol consumption at night induced sleep apnea and intense snoring in the tested subjects.[8]

Another study reported a disruption in sleeping patterns among participants who took alcohol before sleep.[9] Other studies have also found that nighttime alcohol consumption affect s the production of melatonin, which consequently affects the body’s circadian rhythm.[10]

Whichever way you look at it, alcohol is bad news for sleep. So, as tempting as that glass of wine may seem at 8 PM, stay away from it. Your reward will be a deep, refreshing sleep.

4. Skip the Evening Cup of Coffee

Who doesn’t love a nice cup of coffee every now and then? Yes, caffeine (in coffee) has a lot of health benefits, ranging from improved focus and energy, to enhanced athletic performance. So, it comes as no surprise that over 90% of Americans take caffeine in one form or the other.[11]

But just like most good things in life, moderation is key when taking coffee, especially one containing caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant, which by definition, means it simulates your nervous system to keep you awake and alert. Or in other words, keeps you from sleeping.

Interestingly, caffeine can remain active in your system for 6 to 8 hours, which means if you take it too close to bedtime, you can kiss your sleep goodbye. In fact, research has revealed that consuming caffeine up to 6 hours before bedtime can significantly worsen sleep quality.[12]

So, what do you do? Keep coffee consumption to mornings and early afternoons. But once it’s 2 PM, say goodbye to coffee for the day. Trust me, you’ll be glad your did.

5. Get a Quality Mattress and Pillow

Have you ever wondered why you feel so much more comfortable and sleep better in a hotel? Well, there’s no magic behind it, it’s mostly about the quality of the bed.[13]

When you sleep on a comfortable bed, you feel less pain and enjoy better sleep quality. Studies have also shown that a new mattress and bedding can significantly reduce back pain, back stiffness and shoulder pain, thereby improving sleep quality.[14]

So, if you haven’t changed your mattress in a while, upgrading your mattress and pillow to new ones may be a great way of improving sleep quality. However, the choice of the “best mattress”[15] is highly subjective, so make sure you do your research before making a buying decision.

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Here’s Your Essential Guide To Buying The Right Mattress and 10 Best Pillows To Choose For A Good Night Sleep

6. Don’t Nap Too Long During the Day

Taking a quick nap during the day is great, but if it becomes too long, it’ll most likely affect your sleep at night. Here’s why:

Sleeping for long periods during the day can trick your internal biological clock into thinking it’s night time. And this may lead to trouble sleeping at night, as the body releases “wakefulness” hormones instead of sleep hormones.[16]

Research has shown that the best day-time naps are usually no more than 30 minutes.[17] Longer naps tend to have negative quality on sleep quality. That said, if you’re used to daytime napping and you still sleep effortlessly at night, then you have nothing to worry about.[18]

7. Take a Shower

Never underestimate the power of a shower. Various research studies have shown that people can improve their overall sleep quality by taking a shower before hitting the bed. Even a simple foot bath does the job… especially in elders.[19]

Although the specific mechanism behind this isn’t entirely clear, water does tend to have a relaxing effect on the body and this makes sleep much more enjoyable. Just take a look at How Night Shower Can Help You Sleep Better.

So, if you’re looking for a cheap way of improving your sleep quality, a warm shower before bed isn’t a bad way to go.

8. Empty Your Mind

Sleeping isn’t merely a physical activity, it involves the mind just as much as the body. So, if you want to enjoy your sleep each night, you must learn to empty your mind. And there are different ways of achieving this.

Studies have shown that various relaxation techniques such as reading a book, meditating, listening to soft music and having a relaxing massage, can significantly improve sleep quality. So, you can try various techniques to identify what works best for you. [20]

Also, if you’re the type that worries about the next day a lot, it can help to get a diary and write down every task you need to take care of the following day and how you will get it done. This will help to calm your mind and make it easier to fall asleep.

9. Exercise Regularly

If you’ve been skipping exercise, you’ve been doing yourself a great disservice. Apart from the numerous physical and mental health benefits, it has also been shown to improve sleep quality.

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For instance, in one study published in JAMA, it was reported that regular exercise significantly reduced the amount of time it took older adults to fall asleep and increased the normal duration of sleep by 40 minutes.[21] Another study reported that exercise was even more effective for insomnia patients than sleep drugs.[22]

As great as exercise is, though, timing is also important. Experts believe that exercising too close to bedtime, can negatively affect sleep. This is due to the stimulatory effect of exercise, resulting from the release of hormones like adrenaline. So, if you must exercise in the evening, make it at least, three hours to your bedtime.

10. Take Sleep Supplements

Remember melatonin? The hormone that tells your body when to hit the bed and relax? Yep, it is available as supplements and you can take it to improve your sleep.

In fact, research has shown that melatonin is one of the easiest means of falling asleep quickly. This is why it is commonly used as a treatment for insomnia.[23]

Melatonin is a prescription drug in some countries, while in other countries, it can be purchased, over the counter. Either way, it is advisable to check in with your doctor before taking melatonin, since it’s a drug that can alter brain chemistry.

There’re also these 8 Essential Vitamins And Minerals to Help You Sleep Better, depending on your needs.

The Bottom Line

Sleep is awesome! It’s the body’s way of keeping you in tip-top condition at all times. So, if you want to live in resounding health and be maximally productive day-in-day-out, then you need to make sleep a core part of your daily routine.

And while at it, remember to target 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night, as research has shown that the maximum benefits of sleep can be obtained within this time frame.

Okay, that’s it! Start small, start somewhere, pick some (or all) of these tips and incorporate them into your daily life. The result will be a resounding sleep that will open the door to improved health and productivity.

Featured photo credit: Rafal Jedrzejek via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Diet Fitness King: 7 Reasons Why Getting More Sleep Is Good For Health
[2] PLoS One.: Association of Sleep Duration with Chronic Diseases in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC)-Potsdam Study
[3] Science Daily: World’s largest sleep study shows too much shut-eye can be bad for your brain
[4] J Sleep Res.: Effects of playing a computer game using a bright display on presleep physiological variables, sleep latency, slow wave sleep and REM sleep.
[5] Neuro Endocrinol Lett.: The impact of light from computer monitors on melatonin levels in college students.
[6] J Sleep Res.: Investigating the interaction between the homeostatic and circadian processes of sleep-wake regulation for the prediction of waking neurobehavioural performance.
[7] J Sleep Res.: Circadian preference, sleep and daytime behaviour in adolescence.
[8] Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatrye: Alcohol, snoring and sleep apnea.
[9] Am J Med.: Alcohol increases sleep apnea and oxygen desaturation in asymptomatic men.
[10] J Clin Endocrinol Metab.: Ethanol inhibits melatonin secretion in healthy volunteers in a dose-dependent randomized double blind cross-over study.
[11] J Am Diet Assoc.: Food sources and intakes of caffeine in the diets of persons in the United States.
[12] J Clin Sleep Med.: Caffeine effects on sleep taken 0, 3, or 6 hours before going to bed.
[13] Am J Phys Med Rehabil.: Sleep disturbance in patients with chronic low back pain.
[14] J Manipulative Physiol Ther.: Effectiveness of a selected bedding system on quality of sleep, low back pain, shoulder pain, and spine stiffness.
[15] Best Mattress Review: Best Mattress 2019
[16] Behav Neurosci.: Effects of sleep inertia after daytime naps vary with executive load and time of day.
[17] Curr Opin Pulm Med.: Good sleep, bad sleep! The role of daytime naps in healthy adults.
[18] Behav Med. : The prevalence of daytime napping and its relationship to nighttime sleep.
[19] Int J Nurs Stud.: Effect of foot bathing on distal-proximal skin temperature gradient in elders.
[20] Am J Crit Care.: Effect of a back massage and relaxation intervention on sleep in critically ill patients.
[21] JAMA: Moderate-intensity exercise and self-rated quality of sleep in older adults. A randomized controlled trial.
[22] J Clin Sleep Med.: Effect of acute physical exercise on patients with chronic primary insomnia.
[23] J Sleep Res.: Prolonged-release melatonin improves sleep quality and morning alertness in insomnia patients aged 55 years and older and has no withdrawal effects.

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