Are you looking to snag a big promotion at work? There’s a simple way to do it: go to sleep.
Now, you’re probably wondering how sleeping is going to get your boss’ attention and help you move forward in your career. The answer is simple: getting enough sleep at night helps you be more productive at work and produce better quality work, which will eventually get you at the top of the list for promotions. Robyn South, a relations specialist for Sleep Advisor, covers everything related to sleep, from mattresses to the newest science behind sleep technology and wellness breakthroughs. She gives us her best tips on how to sleep hard and work hard in Hong Kong’s fast-paced landscape.
How sleep helps you be more productive
You probably already know the effect that not getting enough sleep has on you: you feel exhausted and lethargic, a little cranky, and not quite “on” and able to tackle the challenges of the day. Living in Hong Kong—one of the most sleep-deprived countries in the world, where people sleep an average of 6.5 hours per night—you probably think that this feeling is normal. However, not getting enough sleep has serious consequences for your productivity. Without enough sleep, you likely:
- Have trouble focusing, and recovering from distractions (for example, constant alerts from your email)
- Have trouble making decisions and solving problems
- Make more mistakes—which you then have to spend time correcting
- Have memory issues, and feel more disorganised
- Have trouble meeting deadlines
- Experience burnout
Ultimately, sleep is one of the most important factors in your performance at work. When you’re well-rested and energetic, you can accomplish more each day in the same number of hours. When you’re used to working hard for long hours and not sleeping very much, making changes to get better sleep can seem difficult. Developing new habits will make a big difference to your work performance, though, and you can start small with some of the following ideas.
1. Follow your natural sleep schedule
Although most adults need 7–7.5 hours of sleep per night, you may need more or less sleep. Everyone has their own internal body clock, which means not only that you might be able to get by on six hours of sleep or require eight hours to feel refreshed, but also that there are certain times of the day when you’re most productive.
Pay attention to your natural tendencies. For example, are you most productive in the early morning hours? Schedule your sleep so you can get up earlier and take advantage of that natural boost of focus and energy. Get into the office ahead of time (and the hectic morning commute) and use the quiet environment to be your most productive.
On the other hand, if you find that you are better able to concentrate and get things done in the later part of the day, spend a little extra time in bed in the morning so you can maintain that energy.
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2. Be consistent
Once you determine how much sleep you need each night, set a schedule that allows you to get that much sleep every night, and follow it faithfully—even on the weekends. That might mean a cutback on Friday nights out in Soho, but it will influence an improvement on your sleep. Going to bed and waking up at the same time each night and getting an adequate amount of sleep will help you fall asleep more easily (and get out of bed in the morning) but also ensures you don’t start racking up a sleep debt that will eventually reduce your productivity.
3. Establish a morning routine
Hitting the snooze button can be tempting. But prolonging getting out of bed is only going to make you groggier and less productive. Instead of automatically extending the alarm, get out of bed and start your morning routine. Use the extra time you’re not lying in bed waiting for the alarm to sound to do some stretches, enjoy your coffee outdoors, or just complete your morning routine without rushing. Being productive first thing in the morning can help you stay energetic for the rest of the day.
4. Take power naps
Taking a sleep break of no more than 20–30 minutes can help you feel more energised and alert. Anything longer than 30 minutes and you risk falling into a deep sleep, which will leave you feeling groggy and disoriented. When you feel yourself becoming less productive, take a short break and find an empty conference room or quiet spot where you can rest for 20 minutes. Some major hotel chains around town even offer rooms by the hour, which you can book via mobile apps like Flow.
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5. Put the phone away
The idea of turning off your phone at bedtime and putting it away might be anxiety-inducing, but it’s vital to getting a good night’s sleep. Checking work emails or responding to messages at all hours of the night isn’t really helping you get things done, and it’s likely to cause stress that will keep you from getting restful sleep. That’s not even considering the negative effect that the blue light your devices emit (and that includes your phone, tablet, computer, and television) has on your ability to fall asleep.
All of the emails and messages you feel like you must read before bed will still be there in the morning, so put the devices aside and relax before bed. You’ll be more productive in the morning after you’ve gotten some rest, and be able to communicate more effectively and make better decisions. And in time, your insistence on setting this important boundary could inspire others to do the same, and they too will communicate during business hours.
6. Put down the coffee
Instead of chugging coffee and caffeinated drinks to stay awake and alert, drink water instead. Too much caffeine, especially in the afternoon, can disrupt your sleep schedule and make it hard to get restful sleep during the night. A single cup of coffee in the morning probably won’t disrupt your rest too much, but trying to get over the afternoon slump with an espresso will.
7. Get some sunlight
If you head to the office before the sun comes up and leave when it’s dark, you are eventually going to disrupt your natural rhythms and have a hard time sleeping. Make a point of getting some natural light—ideally outdoors—every day. Walk to the cafe to pick up your lunch instead of ordering in, and enjoy a little sunshine along the way. Exposure to natural light will help regulate your sleep cycle and improve your mood and energy levels throughout the day.
8. Use your sleep time productively
It sounds counterintuitive, but the time you spend asleep can help you improve your productivity and get more done during the day—and help you be more innovative and a better problem solver. For instance, if you have to travel for business, opt for red-eye or overnight flights so you can sleep while you travel and arrive refreshed and ready to tackle your meetings.
Because sleep is the time when your brain makes new connections and forms new ideas and memories, spending some time before bed considering your work challenges or projects. Remember that you don’t have to solve everything before falling asleep (which will only cause stress and keep you awake) but instead consider the facts and let your mind wander. The answers you seek may not come to you in a dream, but letting your brain rest and restore itself while you sleep could help you uncover the inspiration you need.
So while burning the midnight oil and putting in long hours might seem like the way to get more done at work and land a promotion, if that hard work comes at the price of your sleep, it’s probably not going to pay off. Get some quality rest instead and make the most of your day, and you’ll see a big improvement in your productivity.