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Learn How to Sleep Like a Baby

Learn How to Sleep Like a Baby

Which of these situations have happened to you?

  • Tuning out at an important client meeting despite efforts to stay focused.
  • Begging off from Friday night out with friends three weeks in a row because of tiredness.
  • Midday lethargy that improves slightly after taking a cup of coffee.
  • Your spouse or children complain that you’re not listening.
  • Dozing off halfway through a movie.
  • Getting breathless soon after you start exercise.
  • You’ve got dark circles under your eyes no amount of concealer can get rid of.

Ticking off even just one of the above could indicate problems with sleep.  The good news is you don’t need to spend a fortune to get high-quality sleep.

It’s much more than just your body going on “sleep” mode.

In the book, “Fit for Life II: Living Health,” authors Harvey and Marilyn Diamond list sleep as the fourth element of health after air, water, and food. Our busy lifestyles produce more things to do in a day and we often sacrifice sleep. We assume shaving off a few hours from something we spend a third of our day doing wont hurt.  But It will!

Energy is what keeps us functioning and we use it up every day.  When we ran out of energy, we are in a state of enervation.  Sleep is when the body regenerates energy even as  other  important processes are also taking place – tissue repair, healing, cell replacements, and moving waste for elimination. When you limit sleep, you stop your body’s natural energy-recharging mechanism.  You don’t think twice about working on your presentation until 2 a.m, a mere few hours before you leave for a business trip.  But that’s no different from packing your laptop and leaving the charger! You’ll be running on empty.

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There’s no such thing as oversleeping.

How much sleep is enough? Enough is when the body has reloaded on lost energy and completed the other processes mentioned above.  Depending on the day’s energy expenditure and the quality of sleep, some people manage well with 6 hours while others absolutely need 10.  Ideally (when we don’t allow energy drinks and artificial stimulants to interfere) we sleep when we get tired.  And when the body is ready, we then naturally wake up.  There’s no such thing as oversleeping because your body simply claims the sleep it needs. It warns you when your energy levels are low. Don’t “dismiss” the message – like you would on your cell phone.

Quality over quantity: Make every sleeping minute count.

So you’ve set your alarm, switched off the lights, and are looking forward to a restful sleep.  Two hours later, you’re still staring at the ceiling while your mind replays the day’s scenes or tomorrow’s list of To-Do’s.  When that happens to me, I know the culprit is afternoon coffee, a cola drink, or chocolate and I kick myself for forgetting!

Here are other factors that affect good quality sleep.

Food:

Caffeine may not affect other people’s sleep quality, but a heavy dinner will.  Eating a lot at dinner, especially when meat is part of the menu, requires increased energy expenditure for digestion.  Harvey and Marilyn Diamond ascribe to food combining and following the body’s circadian rhythm.  To be in rhythm, don’t eat beyond 8:00 p.m. or at the very least, not within two hours of sleeping.  Otherwise, the food is poorly digested because of dwindling energy.  It’s like downloading a huge file on Torrent with just 5% of battery life.

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Air:

During sleep, the assimilation process – absorbing nutrients from digested food – also takes place. Oxygen from fresh air is needed and greatly aids the process.  We know from 4th grade Biology class that humans inhale beneficial oxygen and exhale harmful (to humans) carbon dioxide. If you sleep in an enclosed room, you are breathing stale air so don’t be surprised if you wake up tired.  And the more people you share that enclosed room with, the more stale air (carbon dioxide) you breathe in.  Open your window to allow fresh air in.   Turn off your air conditioning.  Consider a small portable fan placed a comfortable distance from you.  You save on energy plus its soft whirring sound can lull you to sleep.

Bright lights:

When nighttime and darkness comes, the body naturally produces  the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin.  Light affects your body’s ability to produce melatonin. During winter season when the nights are longer, the body produces melatonin earlier in the night. Conversely, bright lights filtering into your bedroom will slow down your body’s production of melatonin.  Put on a sleep mask or tie a scarf around your eye area to simulate darkness necessary to get quality sleep.  This works well too when you need a quick cat nap during the day.

Electromagnetic Field (EMF)  Exposure:

EMF is an invisible area of energy that surrounds wiring and electric devices. Joseph Mercola, alternative medicine and osteopathic doctor, explains the EMF components.

Electric field is created by voltage or the force which pushes the electricity through wires.  Electric fields can be shielded physically by walls or other barriers.

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Magnetic field is created by the current or amount of electricity being pushed and is concerning because it can travel through barriers over long distances and is hard to block.

EMF exposure comes from cell phones, computers and wireless internet, non-corded portable phones, electric alarm clocks, lamps and wiring, among others.  Dr. Mercola’s advice: Turn off everything electrical in your sleeping area, including WI-FI (modems/routers), cell phones, and portable phones.  Position your head at least 3-to-6 feet from electrical outlets.

Exercise:

The National Sleep Foundation “2013 Sleep in America Poll” surveyed 1000 adults, between the ages of 23 and 60.  Major findings showed:

  • Self-described exercisers report better sleep.
  • Vigorous exercisers report the best sleep.
  • Non-exercisers are more sleepy at daytime.
  • Exercise at any time of day appears good for sleep.
  • Less time sitting is associated with better sleep and health.

This is the first poll result that shows spending too much time sitting might negatively affect sleep quality.

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The bi-directional relationship between sleep and exercise was the subject of researchers at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.  The effect of sleep on exercise was immediate, with subjects managing only short exercise sessions after sleeping poorly.

Aerobic exercise (20-30 minutes) improves sleep quality but try not to exercise within two hours of bedtime.  And it’s best to skip exercise if you slept poorly the previous night.

More Good-Snooze Tips:

Clinical psychologist and sleep expert Michael Breus, PhD offers realistic, practical advice:

  • Take your highest caffeine content beverage in the morning and taper through the day. Starting at 2 p.m, switch to fruit juice or water.
  • Try not to use the bedroom except for sleeping and intimacy to gain “stimulus control” that associates the bedroom with sleep.  If you need to read in bed, use a book light to avoid direct light in eyes.
  • Sleep at the same time every night so your body gets into a rhythm.
  • Practice Jacobsonian muscle relaxation techniques – tensing and relaxing muscle groups.

If you think it’s a hassle to work at getting enough quality sleep, revisit the situations listed at the start of this article.  Are you willing to sacrifice your health, relationships, and career due to a weakened  immune system, impaired mental alertness, and irritability or inattention?  Getting a good night’s sleep is natural, expense-free protection against challenges thrown your way.  When you sleep like a baby, you can make child’s play of work-life stress. The bonus: clear, bright eyes – no dark circles, no puffiness, and no concealer necessary.

Featured photo credit: kakisky via morguefile.com

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Last Updated on September 28, 2020

The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

At the start of the year, if you had asked anyone if they could do their work from home, many would have said no. They would have cited the need for team meetings, a place to be able to sit down and get on with their work, the camaraderie of the office, and being able to meet customers and clients face to face.

Almost ten months later, most of us have learned that we can do our work from home and in many ways, we have discovered working from home is a lot better than doing our work in a busy, bustling office environment where we are inundated with distractions and noise.

One of the things the 2020 pandemic has reminded us is we humans are incredibly adaptable. It is one of the strengths of our kind. Yet we have been unknowingly practicing this for years. When we move house we go through enormous upheaval.

When we change jobs, we not only change our work environment but we also change the surrounding people. Humans are adaptable and this adaptability gives us strength.

So, what are the pros and cons of working from home? Below I will share some things I have discovered since I made the change to being predominantly a person who works from home.

Pro #1: A More Relaxed Start to the Day

This one I love. When I had to be at a place of work in the past, I would always set my alarm to give me just enough time to make coffee, take a shower, and change. Mornings always felt like a rush.

Now, I can wake up a little later, make coffee and instead of rushing to get out of the door at a specific time, I can spend ten minutes writing in my journal, reviewing my plan for the day, and start the day in a more relaxed frame of mind.

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When you start the day in a relaxed state, you begin more positively. You find you have more clarity and more focus and you are not wasting energy worrying about whether you will be late.

Pro #2: More Quiet, Focused Time = Increased Productivity

One of the biggest difficulties of working in an office is the noise and distractions. If a colleague or boss can see you sat at your desk, you are more approachable. It is easier for them to ask you questions or engage you in meaningless conversations.

Working from home allows you to shut the door and get on with an hour or two of quiet focused work. If you close down your Slack and Email, you avoid the risk of being disturbed and it is amazing how much work you can get done.

An experiment conducted in 2012 found that working from home increased a person’s productivity by 13%, and more recent studies also find significant increases in productivity.[1]

When our productivity increases, the amount of time we need to perform our work decreases, and this means we can spend more time on activities that can bring us closer to our family and friends as well as improve our mental health.

Pro #3: More Control Over Your Day

Without bosses and colleagues watching over us all day, we have a lot more control over what we do. While some work will inevitably be more urgent than others, we still get a lot more choice about what we work on.

We also get more control over where we work. I remember when working in an office, we were given a fixed workstation. Some of these workstations were pleasant with a lot of natural sunlight, but other areas were less pleasant. It was often the luck of the draw whether we find ourselves in a good place to work or not.

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By working from home we can choose what work to work on and whether we want to face a window or not. We can get up and move to another place, and we can move from room to room. And if you have a garden, on nice days you could spend a few hours working outside.

Pro #4: You Get to Choose Your Office Environment

While many companies will provide you with a laptop or other equipment to do your work, others will give you an allowance to purchase your equipment. But with furniture such as your chair and desk, you have a lot of freedom.

I have seen a lot of amazing home working spaces with wonderful sets up—better chairs, laptop stands that make working from a laptop much more ergonomic and therefore, better for your neck.

You can also choose your wall art and the little nick-nacks on your desk or table. With all this freedom, you can create a very personal and excellent working environment that is a pleasure to work in. When you are happy doing your work, you will inevitably do better work.

Con #1: We Move a Lot Less

When we commute to a place of work, there is movement involved. Many people commute using public transport, which means walking to the bus stop or train station. Then, there is the movement at lunchtime when we go out to buy our lunch. Working in a place of work requires us to move more.

Unfortunately, working from home naturally causes us to move less and this means we are not burning as many calories as we need to.

Moving is essential to our health and if you are working from home you need to become much more aware of your movement. To ensure you are moving enough, make sure you take your lunch breaks. Get up from your desk and move. Go outside, if you can, and take a walk. And, of course, refrain from regular trips to the refrigerator.

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Con #2: Less Human Interaction

One of the nicest things about bringing a group of people together to work is the camaraderie and relationships that are built over time. Working from home takes us away from that human interaction and for many, this can cause a feeling of loss.

Humans are a social species—we need to be with other people. Without that connection, we start to feel lonely and that can lead to mental health issues.

Zoom and Microsoft Teams meeting cannot replace that interaction. Often, the interactions we get at our workplaces are spontaneous. But with video calls, there is nothing spontaneous—most of these calls are prearranged and that’s not spontaneous.

This lack of spontaneous interaction can also reduce a team’s ability to develop creative solutions—there’s just something about a group of incredibly creative people coming together in a room to thrash out ideas together that lends itself to creativity.

While video calls can be useful, they don’t match the connection between a group of people working on a solution together.

Con #3: The Cost of Buying Home Office Equipment

Not all companies are going to provide you with a nice allowance to buy expensive home office equipment. 100% remote companies such as Doist (the creators of Todoist and Twist) provide a $2,000 allowance to all their staff every two years to buy office equipment. Others are not so generous.

This can prove to be expensive for many people to create their ideal work-from-home workspace. Many people must make do with what they already have, and that could mean unsuitable chairs that damage backs and necks.

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For a future that will likely involve more flexible working arrangements, companies will need to support their staff in ways that will add additional costs to an already reduced bottom line.

Con #4: Unique Distractions

Not all people have the benefit of being able to afford childcare for young children, and this means they need to balance working and taking care of their kids.

For many parents, being able to go to a workplace gives them time away from the noise and demands of a young family, so they could get on with their work. Working from home removes this and can make doing video calls almost impossible.

To overcome this, where possible, you need to set some boundaries. I know this is not always possible, but it is something you need to try. You should do whatever you can to make sure you have some boundaries between your work life and home life.

Final Thoughts

Working from home can be hugely beneficial for many people, but it can also bring serious challenges to others.

We are moving towards a new way of working. Therefore, companies need to look at both the pros and cons of working from home and be prepared to support their staff in making this transition. It will not be impossible, but a lot of thought will need to go into it.

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Featured photo credit: Standsome Worklifestyle via unsplash.com

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