Why You Should Sleep Your Way To The Top

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Sarah Browne

When did it become cool to go sleepless? Humble-bragging about sleep deprivation has invaded our workplaces -- "yeah, I grabbed 15 minutes under my desk" or "It was a six Red Bull night." Answering emails at midnight or sending them at 4 a.m. has become a badge of honor; a symbol of how urgently important it is to stay awake and available no matter what.

Happily, this trend may soon become snore-worthy. Today, there is a wellspring of new wisdom about what we need to be happy and productive in our lives both in and out of the office. Researchers galore are extolling not only the virtues but the absolute necessity of adequate sleep. Sleep apps are being downloaded by the droves. Smart devices reveal how much good sleep we got last night, and exactly when the dog rolled over and woke us up.

Sleep professionals say adults on average need eight hours of sleep. Those who believe they can get away with far less may be a tad delusional. In her pioneering book Thrive, Arianna Huffington quotes Bill Clinton as admitting: "Every important mistake I've made in my life, I've made because I was too tired."

Sleep specialists have equated the neurobehavioral impact of missing even a night's sleep with being legally drunk. So much for nailing it at that presentation or pivotal job performance review.

One of the reasons this pattern of sleep deprivation has continued so long is that most workers are still able to function well enough. The routine tasks of a job can often be performed on auto-pilot. Most of us can make it through meetings and to-do lists with an infusion of Blue Bottle and a sugar-high (but eventually slump-inducing) donut.

But where coffee can't save the day is where it counts the most: when you want to scale the next rung on the ladder. Getting ahead, moving up, mastery is a mentally challenging endeavor that demands resilience, consistency, and the ability to process an avalanche of new and complex information. Well-rested workers think faster, more creatively, and more clearly. When the brain has enjoyed enough R&R --rest and restoration --overall performance is improved. Confidence, leadership, and decision making are improved.

Sleep deficiency may also leave you poorer. A study conducted by economics researchers at UCSD links sleep with our salaries: For those who are sleeping too little, Matthew Gibson and Jeffrey Shrader report, "a one-hour increase in long-run average sleep increases wages by 16%, equivalent to more than a year of schooling."

Working Moms Get The Least Sleep

According to Healthline, sleep deprivation also puts us at risk for a host of medical issues -- high blood pressure, diabetes, heart problems,weight gain and weakened immune systems -- in addition to memory problems, impaired brain activity, moodiness, and depression. A Duke University study has found that the risks associated with poor sleep and the resultant stress levels are greater in women than men. In fact, working Moms get the least sleep, with 59% of survey respondents reporting sleep deprivation, and 50 percent saying they get six hours of sleep or less. Some of this deficiency comes from time-constrained over-scheduled Moms desperately in search of an hour of "Me Time" -- which may only be found at the tail-end of a jam-packed day.

Seven Ways To Sleep Your Way To The Top

Take Power Naps: Our hunting-and-gathering heritage may have prepped us for today's power naps. Research shows that 20 minutes of sleep in the middle of our workday -- around eight hours after rising --is actually more replenishing than 20 minutes more in the morning. Longer naps, those of an hour's worth, get you into deeper sleep, which may disrupt your night's sleep or leave you groggy. On the other hand, this amount and depth of sleep is far more restorative -- boosting your cognitive functioning considerably.

Meditation: If you can't find a good spot in the office to nap, or feel uncomfortable, meditation may help. Close your eyes. Breathe deep. Simple mindfulness can reduce stress, revive energy, and improve focus.

Quit the Coffee by 3 p.m.: That means Red Bull, too. Also re-consider those sugary or carb-heavy snacks. Substances such as nicotine, alcohol, decongestants and pain relievers also negatively affect sleep.

Paying Off Your Sleep Debt. Over-sleeping on weekends to catch up generally doesn't do the trick. Sleep deficiency is cumulative. Ten hours on Saturday can't compensate for the scant five hours you get every work night.

Sleeping With The Enemy: Research shows that sleeping with your smartphone, as some 75% of Millennials confess to doing, disrupts your Zs. Even checking your devices near bedtime has a negative effect on the length and quality of sleep.

Check into a Sleep Lab: A growing number of sleep labs and specialists are available to help including the Golden Bear Sleep and Mood Research Clinic at the University of California Berkeley. These scientists are the ones who discovered the link between weight gain and lack of sleep.

Become a Sleep Evangelist. Let's all commit to the necessity of a good night's sleep. Let's share our fully-awake-and-refreshed mantra with others in the workplace. Challenge our company executives, managers, and human resource professionals to create policies, especially for after-work technology usage, that support the New Sleep. Germany's Labor Ministry did just that by "outlawing" email and phone calls to staff after hours. Companies like Google have installed sleep stations called EnergyPods which allow employees to doze off to a built-in Bose music system and high tech timer that wakes the podster with light and vibration.

Can we trash the under-sleeping trend once and for all, so that 8-Hours-And-Proud is the new brag?

Tell us in the Comments: How much sleep do you get? Do you sleep with your smartphone?
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