The High Cost of Poor Sleep and 7 Things to Do About It

July 14, 2023

If you have high professional ambitions, your career is a major source of meaning and purpose in your life.

But in order to perform well professionally, it’s vital to take care of yourself personally.

This includes finding ways to destress, getting proper exercise, and nourishing your body with healthy food and water.

But sleep often falls by the wayside, with an estimated 1 in 3 adults not getting enough sleep each night.

Sleep deprivation does not just impact how you feel the next day. It can have some serious consequences in both your personal life and career if left unchecked. 

Here we’ll explore why sleep is so important to your mind and body, the biggest lifestyle factors that impact sleep, and seven things you can do to establish a healthy rhythm of rest every day. 

Physical and Mental: The Full-Body Benefits of Sleep

Someone sitting at their computer and working in a spatially diverse coworking office

Sleep is essential and plays a vital role in overall health and well-being. Adequate sleep helps to ensure you’re in optimal physical and mental condition which, in turn, impacts every part of your life. 

Sleep impacts your entire body and supports an array of essential key functions:

  • Heart and circulatory system: As you sleep, your blood pressure and heart rate fall. This, in a sense, allows your heart to rest and ensures ongoing heart health. 
  • Hormones: Your body is regulated by hormones throughout the day. Sleep and your circadian rhythm—when you sleep—impact hormones cycles and ensure they are in sync. 
  • Metabolism: Circadian rhythms also impact your metabolism and how you digest foods. This is important for ensuring accurate hunger cues and maintaining a healthy body weight. 
  • Respiratory and immune systems: Sleep positively supports your respiration and breathing because it slows down during the night. It also encourages immune cells to work harder, which boosts your immunity. 
  • Thinking and memory: As you sleep, you form long-term memories. This is vital for maintaining strong mental health, focusing, and thinking clearly. 

Because sleep impacts your entire body, it has a major impact on how you feel throughout the workday. Ongoing poor sleep can lead to reduced physical health, lower energy, and reduced physical stamina. 

But poor sleep also impacts your mental health and well-being. When you’re tired, you have a reduced attention span and can have a hard time concentrating. This may lead to reduced problem-solving skills, creativity, and professional performance. 

Finally, poor sleep impacts your stress levels. Without giving your body time to rest and recharge, you may have increased anxiety and stress. This, too, can impact job performance because of irritability, mood swings, and reduced productivity.

On the flip side, getting enough high-quality sleep has many positive benefits. It can  

  • Improve focus and concentration
  • Help to maintain a healthy body weight
  • Optimize athletic performance
  • Strengthen your heart and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Reduce the chance of depression
  • Build a healthy immune system
  • Decrease inflammation
  • Increase ability to regulate emotions 

Lifestyle and Sleep: Key Factors that Impact Your Rest

If sleep is so vital for overall health and well-being, why do some people struggle to get a good night’s rest? The reality is there are many factors that impact your ability to sleep well during the night. 

Here are a few of the most common factors that affect sleep and sleep quality

  • Stress: High levels of stress and racing thoughts prevent your mind and body from relaxing and both falling asleep and staying asleep. 
  • Diet: Certain foods cause discomfort and may lead to heartburn or reflux. Some common culprits include spicy meals, fried foods, or carbonated beverages. Caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol also can negatively impact your sleep quality. 
  • Environment: A comfortable and quiet sleep environment can be conducive to better sleep. The ideal sleeping temperature is cool (between 60 to 67° F) and your room should be dark and quiet. 
  • Medications: Certain medications, such as antidepressants or stimulants, can interfere with sleep.
  • Exercise: Adequate movement throughout the day makes you physically tired, so it can be easier to get to sleep. 

Besides these factors that are generally within your control, there are some that you don’t have influence over. 

For example, as we age, sleep often becomes lighter and more fragmented. Some people also have sleep disorders like sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, or insomnia that impact their sleep. Finally, genetics play a role in sleep as well, with some people being predisposed to disorders or conditions that prevent quality sleep. 

7 Action Steps to Get Better Sleep

Since many factors that impact sleep are controllable lifestyle factors, it is important to do what you can to optimize sleep and sleep quality. 

Just as you take care of your professional life by leveraging the right tools, setting up systems that work for you, and getting evaluating your priorities, there are important action steps you can take to improve your sleep each night. 

Here are seven ideas: 

1. Manage Stress

Stress and anxiety are common in the workplace today, with many leaders and business owners facing demanding external and internal pressures. And because it is so prevalent, it’s important to start here; managing stress in your life will have a positive spillover that impacts many areas of your life. 

When left unchecked, stress affects your sleep. A pattern of poor sleep, in turn, impacts your work. There’s a reciprocal cycle between stress and sleep that needs to be broken. Consider these healthy ways to manage stress in your life: 

  • Meditation
  • Journaling
  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Yoga
  • Therapy

2. Create a Relaxing Bedtime Routine

Whether you’re finishing up some work, spending time with family, or pursuing hobbies, it’s hard to jump into “sleep mode” without a transition that signals to your body that you’re ready to sleep.   

You can do this by developing a calming evening routine that helps your mind and body wind down from the day. Here are some ideas to try: 

  • Take a warm bath
  • Read a book
  • Light a candle
  • Have a warm drink
  • Listen to calm music or complete a guided meditation

It’s important to note that these relaxing activities are not a replacement for some of the aforementioned, deeper stress alleviation techniques. If you are not doing the serious work to address the pressures and demands of your career, you may find it hard to relax with a book and bath at night time. For this reason, use these calming evening routines as one of many tools in your effort to minimize stress and anxiety from your life. 

3. Establish a Consistent Sleep Schedule

Many of us struggle to get more sleep because we don’t have a consistent sleep schedule. To improve the quality of sleep, try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day—even on weekends—to regulate your body’s internal clock. 

One study showed that quality, duration, and consistency of sleep corresponded to better cognitive function in college students. 

You can establish a consistent sleep schedule by discovering an enjoyable evening and morning routine around other things you enjoy such as meditation, journaling, baths, watching a favorite show, or connecting with loved ones. 

4. Create Sleep-Friendly Environment

Your environment has a big impact on your sleep quality. The optimal sleep environment is a quiet, cool, and dark bedroom. Besides feeling well rested, data also tells us that exposure to light at night is linked to serious health conditions like heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and cancer. 

If you need help with this, consider getting a white noise machine to block out background noise. Blackout curtains can also help set the right environment. 

5. Limit Screen Time Before Bed

Devices like TVs, computers, and smartphones all emit blue light, which has been shown to decrease sleep quality and sleep duration. It “tricks” your brain into thinking it’s still daytime, so your body doesn’t produce melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep. 

Try to limit screens before bed, taking at least an hour of screen-free time before going to sleep. One way to keep this up is to leave all devices outside of your room and focus on other activities like reading before bed instead. 

6. Watch What You Eat and Drink

Heavy or spicy foods—plus alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine—can disrupt your sleep. So, focus on the food and drinks you’re putting into your body before bed, opting for a light snack or herbal tea instead of something heavier. 

Having a generally healthy diet is also important for high-quality sleep because it promotes overall physical health. 

Eating healthy during the workday should be accessible to all professionals, and it’s why we’ve partnered with NOX, our on-site restaurant at And-Co. They deliver high-quality and delicious Italian meets West Coast meals so you can get the most of nutrition and taste throughout the workday. If you want some more inspiration on eating healthy, try these six simple ways to embrace a plant-based diet

7. Exercise Regularly

Regular physical activity can help improve the quality of your sleep because it makes your body physically tired and ready for rest. 

Physical activity and exercise can be anything from regular walks to sports to a pilates class at The Well, our on-site fitness studio. Moving your body is also important for reducing office work-induced body aches and poor posture

Try to avoid exercising too close to bedtime, as this can make it harder to fall asleep. Otherwise, prioritize movement for overall physical health and better sleep quality. 

Sleep and sleep quality have such a big impact on your overall health and well-being—it’s simply too important to leave to chance. Take some of these tips to implement into your life and see how your sleep, work, and life improve. 

If you’re in search of a modern, full-service, and flexible office that helps support both your personal and professional well-being, book a tour of And-Co today.

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