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Are Micro-sleeps Ruining Your Productivity?

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Are Micro-sleeps Ruining Your Productivity?

The morning after a night of poor sleep can be rough, as I’m sure you know from firsthand research. For years we’ve known that sleep affects us both physically and mentally—lack of sleep erodes our mental abilities in particular. Just one night of sub-optimal sleep at less than 5 hours might hurt us more the next day than almost two days of no sleep at all.[1]

Despite this, chances are that you spent your morning commute bleary-eyed and desperately clutching a cup of your preferred caffeine fix whilst maintaining a silent litany of “I promise to go to bed earlier tonight!”.

The fact of it is, you may just have to hack your sleep in order to hack your productivity. Actually, you just need to sleep (no hacking necessary) to be more productive. Research tells us that the insufficient sleep you’re currently getting increases the frequency of micro-sleeps[2] and it might just be these micro-sleeps that are ruining your efforts to be your best self.

What is a micro-sleep?

Sitting at your desk at work after getting 4 hours of sleep, you might think you’ve got your workload under control, but you feel your attention slip occasionally. You suddenly and involuntarily lose your focus and it’s a struggle to zone back into full awareness. After a few seconds you manage to get yourself together, but it’s not the last time that this will happen to you today.

Science describes micro-sleep as very short periods of sleep[2], but you may be more familiar with them as unintended lapses in attention[2]. Although short, they are an interruption to your flow and, in a sleep-deprived state, these interruptions might take you longer to recover from.

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So why do they occur?

Sleep is a biological necessity, so while we’re awake, our need for sleep builds throughout the day until we fall into bed in the evening. It’s normal to experience crossovers between wakefulness and sleep to a certain extent, but a lack of sleep will expand our sleep debt. A heavy debt will increase the frequency of these crossovers and subsequently, you might find yourself lapsing into micro-sleeps more often[2-3], meaning that you will struggle to concentrate more often and may feel sleepy or tired[4].

If you already struggle with these feelings at work, it’s time to accept that they’re a call for help and not to be ignored until you eventually retire.

Your brain on insufficient sleep

Research thus far has shown that your mood suffers the greatest hit from a lack of sleep[1]. The brain becomes more reactive[5] and emotions can go haywire, causing unstable moods.

One interesting study also showed that we’re more likely to react to negative stimuli[2] when suffering from a lack of zzz’s. Being a bit of a ticking bomb can’t be good in a social setting, especially if you’ve been holding a grudge against your coworker or have suppressed feelings towards your boss.

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Insufficient sleep can also affect our mental and creative skills, with lateral and flexible thinking particularly impaired. Furthermore, it has been shown that it takes us longer to complete a task when operating on a lack of sleep[2], especially as our motivation and engagement[2] suffer as well. (Can this explain the cyber loafing problem some have?) In any case, it’s safe to assume that even the tasks that come automatically to us, might be harder to get crossed off our to-do lists.

Even if you push through and complete a task, it’s likely there will be errors[2] you’ll have to spend further time correcting as chronic sleep deprivation decreases speed and accuracy[3]. Let’s face it—the time spent correcting errors could have been better put to use, like on a full night’s sleep.

But I do get enough sleep!

Are you sure? In another effort to prove us all wrong, research reveals that we tend to think we’ve gotten enough sleep even when we haven’t[3]. Furthermore, we tend to greatly overestimate our cognitive performance when chronically sleep-deprived; although we think we’re doing well, our performance might have actually plummeted.[3]

It looks like sleep might be the best first step towards optimising your productivity. Even without delving into polyphasic sleep and other experiments, just getting a good night’s sleep might help you refresh enough for you to make the most of your day at work.

If there’s one thing you’ll take away from this article, it should be this quote by Jim Butcher:

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Sleep is God. Go worship.

Make that the litany inside your head.

If it’s the middle of your workday, you’re struggling with being productive at this very moment and thinking that this article is absolutely useless, I’ve got a morsel for you too. Here are:

3 scientifically-backed truths to quickly boost your productivity:

1. Get some exercise: Research has shown that exercise increases productivity so that we are both able to do more and do it better.[6] The good news is that you don’t have to go off to slave away at the gym—even a walk around the office or a run up the stairs might help. If you can find the time, go do it now.

2. Be happy: Think positively and feed positive emotions—happiness can increase an employee’s productivity so that he does more while maintaining a level of quality to his work[7]. In this context, happiness entails any positive emotion experienced often.[7]

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3. Try being mindful:Research has shown that even the short-term practice of mindfulness can improve our ability to remain focused as well as our mood and cognitive processes[8].

References
[1]Pilcher, J., Huffcut, A.I., (1996). Effects of sleep deprivation on performance: a meta analysis. Sleep, 19(4), 318-326.
[2]Lim, J., Dinges, D.F. Sleep deprivation and vigilant attention. Dexpartment of psychology, University of Pennsylvania.
[3]Durmer, J.S., Dinges, D.F. (2005). Neurocognitive consequences of sleep deprivation. Seminars in Neurology 25(1), 117-129.
[4]Porcu, S., Bellatreccia, A., Ferrara, M. (1998). Sleepiness, alertness and performance during a laboratory simulation of an acute shift of the wake-sleep cycle. Ergonomics 41(8), 1192-1202
[5]Yoo, S.S., Gujar, N., Hu, P., Jolesz, F.A., Walker, M.P. (2012). The human emotional brain without sleep – a prefrontal amygdala disconnect. Current Biology, 17(20), 877-878.
[6]von Thiele Schwarz, U., Hasson, H. (2011). Employee self-rated productivity and objective organizational production levels: effects of worksite health interventions involving reduced work hours and physical exercise. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 53(8), 838-844.
[7]Oswald, A.J., Proto, E., Sgroi, D. (2009). Happiness and productivity. IZA Discussion Paper No. 4645. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1526075
[8]Zeidan, F., Johnson, S.K., Diamond, B.J., David, Z., Goolkasian, P. (2010). Mindfulness meditation improves cognition: Evidence of brief mental training. Consciousness and cognition, 19(2), 597-605.

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Last Updated on December 2, 2021

The Importance of Making a Camping Checklist

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The Importance of Making a Camping Checklist

Camping can be hard work, but it’s the preparation that’s even harder. There are usually a lot of things to do in order to make sure that you and your family or friends have the perfect camping experience. But sometimes you might get to your destination and discover that you have left out one or more crucial things.

There is no dispute that preparation and organization for a camping trip can be quite overwhelming, but if it is done right, you would see at the end of the day, that it was worth the stress. This is why it is important to ensure optimum planning and execution. For this to be possible, it is advised that in addition to a to-do-list, you should have a camping checklist to remind you of every important detail.

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Why You Should Have a Camping Checklist

Creating a camping checklist makes for a happy and always ready camper. It also prevents mishaps.  A proper camping checklist should include every essential thing you would need for your camping activities, organized into various categories such as shelter, clothing, kitchen, food, personal items, first aid kit, informational items, etc. These categories should be organized by importance. However, it is important that you should not list more than you can handle or more than is necessary for your outdoor adventure.

Camping checklists vary depending on the kind of camping and outdoor activities involved. You should not go on the internet and compile a list of just any camping checklist. Of course, you can research camping checklists, but you have to put into consideration the kind of camping you are doing. It could be backpacking, camping with kids, canoe camping, social camping, etc. You have to be specific and take note of those things that are specifically important to your trip, and those things which are generally needed in all camping trips no matter the kind of camping being embarked on.

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Here are some tips to help you prepare for your next camping trip.

  1. First off, you must have found the perfect campground that best suits your outdoor adventure. If you haven’t, then you should. Sites like Reserve America can help you find and reserve a campsite.
  2. Find or create a good camping checklist that would best suit your kind of camping adventure.
  3. Make sure the whole family is involved in making out the camping check list or downloading a proper checklist that reflects the families need and ticking off the boxes of already accomplished tasks.
  4. You should make out or download a proper checklist months ahead of your trip to make room for adjustments and to avoid too much excitement and the addition of unnecessary things.
  5. Checkout Camping Hacks that would make for a more fun camping experience and prepare you for different situations.

Now on to the checklist!

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Here is how your checklist should look

1. CAMPSITE GEAR

  • Tent, poles, stakes
  • Tent footprint (ground cover for under your tent)
  • Extra tarp or canopy
  • Sleeping bag for each camper
  • Sleeping pad for each camper
  • Repair kit for pads, mattress, tent, tarp
  • Pillows
  • Extra blankets
  • Chairs
  • Headlamps or flashlights ( with extra batteries)
  • Lantern
  • Lantern fuel or batteries

2.  KITCHEN

  • Stove
  • Fuel for stove
  • Matches or lighter
  • Pot
  • French press or portable coffee maker
  • Corkscrew
  • Roasting sticks for marshmallows, hot dogs
  • Food-storage containers
  • Trash bags
  • Cooler
  • Ice
  • Water bottles
  • Plates, bowls, forks, spoons, knives
  • Cups, mugs
  • Paring knife, spatula, cooking spoon
  • Cutting board
  • Foil
  • soap
  • Sponge, dishcloth, dishtowel
  • Paper towels
  • Extra bin for washing dishes

3. CLOTHES

  • Clothes for daytime
  • Sleepwear
  • Swimsuits
  • Rainwear
  • Shoes: hiking/walking shoes, easy-on shoes, water shoes
  • Extra layers for warmth
  • Gloves
  • Hats

4. PERSONAL ITEMS

  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • First-aid kit
  • Prescription medications
  • Toothbrush, toiletries
  • Soap

5. OTHER ITEMS

  • Camera
  • Campsite reservation confirmation, phone number
  • Maps, area information

This list is not completely exhaustive. To make things easier, you can check specialized camping sites like RealSimpleRainyAdventures, and LoveTheOutdoors that have downloadable camping checklists that you can download on your phone or gadget and check as you go.

Featured photo credit: Scott Goodwill via unsplash.com

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