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10 tips for the sleep-deprived

Bosses should be losing sleep over a new study that shows 85% of office workers said they'd be more productive if they could get more sleep.

By Stacy Johnson Dec 22, 2010 1:09PM

This post comes from Michael Koretzky at partner site Money Talks News.


On the same day a Miami newspaper reported that bosses are loading down their employees with even more work, a multinational electronics corporation released a survey showing that more than half of all office workers don't get enough sleep.


Connection, perhaps?


The Miami Herald reported:

Unemployment remains high in part because fewer people are doing more jobs. Employers consolidated positions during the recession, and aren't eager to spread out the work again.

Meanwhile, Philips Consumer Lifestyle, a division of the electronics manufacturer best known for TV sets, announced that "56% of office workers don't consistently get a good night's sleep."

Here are three excerpts from its Workplace Power Outage study that should give employers nightmares:

  • "85% of office workers admit that if they slept more, they would be more productive while on the job."
  • "32% of office workers have admitted to oversleeping and waking up after they were supposed to be at work."
  • "23% of office workers admit to taking a nap at work."

"The findings from the Workplace Power Outage sleep survey support the link between sleep and workplace performance," says Russell Rosenberg, vice chairman of the National Sleep Foundation. "The survey shows that inadequate sleep and poor sleep habits are primary factors for poor job performance, and can also lead to increased irritability, moodiness and lack of energy."


A good night's sleep has been investigated by some of the best and brightest this nation has to offer, from researchers like the one we interviewed for "More sleep on the cheap," to those at the Mayo Clinic and Harvard Medical School. Here's the smashed-up version of advice from numerous sources:

  • Sleep consistently. Go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time. Your body's clock will appreciate it.
  • Get in a rut. Create a relaxing bedtime routine and do it over and over. That could be reading a book, taking a warm bath, or listening to mellow music.
  • Make the bedroom boring. It should be "dark, quiet, comfortable and cool for the best possible sleep," says The Better Sleep Council. That also means no TV or computers in there.
  • Be pitiless with your pillows. Buy a new pillow every year, and consider a new mattress every five to seven years -- although some higher-end brands can last a decade. If you think that's wasteful, here are the top 10 uses for an old pillow.)
  • Naps are for kids. "If you do nap, keep it short," says WebMD. "A brief 15- to 20-minute snooze about eight hours after you get up in the morning can actually be rejuvenating."
  • Work out. At least two hours before bedtime.
  • Eat early and right. The experts disagree on the details, but they all recommend eating at least two -- some say up to three -- hours before bedtime. And they all stress: no alcohol and caffeine (which includes chocolate, sadly).
  • No nicotine. "Smokers often experience withdrawal symptoms at night," says the Mayo Clinic, "and smoking in bed is dangerous."
  • No pills or booze. Sleeping pills and alcohol will help knock you out, but you won't necessarily wake up refreshed. You're not getting "quality sleep."
  • See the light. Wake up to bright light. "Light tells your body it's time to get up," says the U.S. Office on Women's Health. This has become quite the trendy sleep-related topic. Philips Consumer Lifestyle, the folks who paid for that sleep survey, is just one of the companies touting their own brand of "light therapy products," which are supposed to help you wake up in the morning. Do they work? Since these products are still so new, we'll probably have to wait for some future scientific survey.

This sleep advice is certainly sound, but if you're a stressed-out employee, it won't necessarily put you sound asleep. If you're working more and later, it's impossible to eat dinner three hours before bed, find the time to exercise, and establish a bedtime routine.


But American office workers are nothing if not innovative. Rather than just rely on the advice above, I called three people I know personally with stressful careers to ask their advice on getting a better night's sleep. Here's what they had to say:


Psych yourself out. Peter, an editor at a large metropolitan newspaper, has had many new duties heaped on him as newspapers around the country lay off hundreds. His stress-and-sleep solution is to play mind games with himself on his drive to and from work. "A while back, I picked a billboard that's about halfway home. When I pass that billboard, I stop worrying about work. I promise myself I can start worrying again when I pass it in the morning, since I still have half the drive left."


Sounds corny? But a year later, "it's working," he said. "When I go to bed and start worrying about work instead of sleeping, I tell myself, 'You can worry about that in the morning.' It's really helped."


Stretch in the morning. Mary is a human resources director whose workload has increased even with a hiring freeze at her business -- because she's now supervising non-HR employees as managers resign and aren't being replaced. She used to exercise after work at the gym across the street, but with later hours, "the trade-off is now dinner or a workout." And a girl's got to eat.


The solution? Morning yoga. "Now I look forward to waking up, because I can do 20 minutes and feel better at work that day -- which means I'm less stressed that night. I sleep better because of that, and because I know I have some relaxing exercises to wake up to."


Work out in the evening. Vanessa, who manages a doctor's office, splurged and spent $400 on a used treadmill she found after a month of perusing Craigslist. But she figures she's already made back that money in quality sleep. After a long day, she combines two activities -- namely, TV and exercise.


"I watch my reality shows while walking, which makes the shows seem less frivolous because I know I'm burning calories," she says. "Besides, I hate exercising, and with work taking more hours, I had a built-in excuse to just not do it. Then I wouldn't get enough sleep, I'd stay up even later watching TV, then I'd use the fact that I'm tired as an excuse not to exercise! Now I'm in better shape, and I sleep through the night."


If you want to learn more about how you can sleep better, take the Zzzz Score online survey. It will rate your personal sleep style and offer specific advice at the end.


And one more thing -- especially for those of you in New York -- don't let the bedbugs bite! 


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