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Sleep Hacks: Tips for Getting Those Crucial 40 Winks

Sleep Hacks: Tips for Getting Those Crucial 40 Winks

    Sleep is a weird thing, an elusive state that is crucial to maintaining our health and sanity. And yet, it can be so easily interrupted. If you’re like most people, you have difficulty with sleep, whether it’s falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting enough quality sleep. So what sneaky hacks can you use to get better sleep?

    Understanding Sleep

    Your body is programmed to fall into a natural sleep rhythm, known as a circadian rhythm. This “internal body clock” regulates your body’s metabolic processes: everything from sleep schedules to hormone production to blood pressure. The circadian “clock” in humans is located mainly in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), which is a group of cells located in the brain.

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    When daylight hits your eyes, cells in the retinas signal your brain, which in turn can help to keep your circadian rhythms running according to schedule. As you age, the cells in SCN part of the brain may start to die off, causing disruptions in sleep, whether its a hard time getting to bed, or more frequent sleep interruptions.

    Other things can cause interruptions in your ability to sleep include working late or irregular hours, pregnancy, jet lag, or new medications. There are also a number of sleep-related disorders that can affect a person, including Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS), a disorder where a patient will fall asleep at very late times and then have difficulty waking up in time for work or school.

    Tips and Tricks for Better Sleep

    1. Chill Out

    You need to control the temperature of your sleeping environment, and also be aware of the changes in your own internal body temperature. Generally speaking, your brain will cue up your sleeping desires as the air temperature dips, causing you to sleep the most soundly during the cold hours in the morning before sunrise. So, make sure that your bedroom has plenty of fans or air conditioners in hotter months to help you nod off.

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    It’s also worth noting that your body temperature tends to rise in its own circadian rhythm each day, usually nudging you back towards wakefulness between 6 and 8 in the morning.

    2. Fast

    Starving yourself is never healthy, but one of the best ways to reset your sleep-wake cycle is to abstain from food for between 12 and 16 hours. This trick is a great way to combat jet lag, as well as to reset your sleep schedule when you work the late shift, according to a study from the Harvard Medical School.

    This hard reset of your biological clock takes just one day, making it better than exposure to light or day to trick your sleep-wake cycle into doing what you want it to. Once you start eating again, your internal clock will be reset as though it is the start of a new day.  Your body will consider the time you break your fast as your new “morning.”

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    3. Invest in a Dimmer

    If you live in a big city, chances are that you sleep with heavy curtains to help block out the light from buildings and signs. But with such heavy curtains, you’ll also block out the sun as it rises, increasing the likelihood that you will oversleep.

    To combat this, invest in a timed dimmer switch for your bedroom that will gradually increase the amount of light in your bedroom, mimicking the gradual rise of the sun over the horizon.

    4. Keep it Simple

    Sometimes the simple tricks are the best ones. Try dampening a washcloth with warm water, and then place it over your forehead and eyes. The darkness will help your brain to switch off, and the gentle heat can help to relax any tension you might be holding on to after a long, stressful day.

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    5. Try Something New

    Specifically, try out a brand new style of sleep. Dustin Curtis has a great chart that breaks down the differences between polyphasic sleep, normal sleep, Everyman, and Uberman sleep patterns.

    You don’t necessarily need sleep, at least not in the traditional sense. What you need are REM cycles. Just because you are asleep for 8 hours doesn’t mean you get 8 hours worth of sleep, since you really only need four or five 20 minute REM cycles. If your work schedule allows for it, you might want to try sleeping for 6 hours, and then taking a 90 minute nap in the afternoons, or going whole hog and sleeping 90 minutes a night and taking 4 20-minute naps throughout the rest of the day.

    Conclusion

    Our own Seth Simonds once gave some excellent advice when it comes to reclaiming 10-12 hours of productive waking time each week. By sleeping on an uncomfortable bed, you’ll be less likely to sleep in, and tired enough from early rising that you will fall right to sleep at night.

    Ultimately, getting a good night’s sleep is about setting up a routine, avoiding alcohol and caffeine, and trying to minimize the amount of bright lights that you are exposed to after sundown. The method that works best for you may take some trial and error to find, but hopefully these tips will help you to get a good night’s sleep tonight.

    What do you do to get a good night’s sleep? Tell us in the comments below!

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    Tucker Cummings

    Writer and social media professional sharing productivity tips on Lifehack.

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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.

    More About Working From Home

    Featured photo credit: Standsome Worklifestyle via unsplash.com

    Reference

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