If you have ever laid awake at night filled with worries or anxiety, you know just what a miserable place it can be. The negative consequences roll on into the next day – making us tired, less productive and more negative at work.
You’re not alone. Fifty percent of American workers say work-related stress is interfering with their sleep.
Worse, it can be a self-reinforcing cycle: seventy-five percent of adults whose sleep is affected by stress or anxiety say that their sleep problems have added to their stress and anxiety.
The effects on our peace of mind, brain function and productivity are marked. Researchers have found that participants who hadn’t had enough sleep became more angry and stressed when trying to complete a simple cognitive test compared with those who weren’t sleep deprived.
The long-term effects are equally worrying. The US National Safety Council says, “Research has demonstrated that fatigued individuals are an economic strain to themselves, employers and society due to decreased productivity, increased risk of negative safety outcomes and increased illness. A chronically fatigued individual will become more at-risk to health problems like cancer and heart disease.”
So what can you do about it?
Establishing clear boundaries between your home and work life is key. Creating a digital-free time and space in the evenings when you won’t be contacted about work or spend time scrolling through screens and social media messages is a positive step towards this.
Learning how to switch off from work is another important skill. Professor Mark Cropley suggests creating a relaxation ritual that separates your work time from your home life and teaches your mind and body it is time to relax.
Scientists have shown that watching screens prior to retiring in the evening is harmful to good sleep patterns. Allowing two hours before bedtime when you don’t look at a screen may seem difficult at first, but try to cultivate other more-healthy unwinding rituals. For example, taking a bath or reading a book.
If it is possible, ban screens from the bedroom altogether. Make your bedroom a sanctuary: soft linens, comfortable mattress, fresh air, blackout curtains, aromatherapy scents conducive to sleep such as lavender, and no digital devices.
If you do find yourself waking in the night, experts recommend getting up and doing something else in a different room. Don’t return to bed until you feel sleepy. This way, you can minimise the association of worrying with lying in bed.
Make sure the something else doesn’t involve a screen. If necessary, create a cosy corner where you can curl up in an armchair with a good book or a jigsaw.
By improving your habits and rituals around sleep, you should make it easier for yourself to get the good nights sleep you are seeking – and make your days far more enjoyable too.