At the moment, I’m sleeping terribly. It’s happened a couple of times before for various reasons: grief after our mum died, living on a very noisy road when I was in New York (I do not miss those nightly sirens), being too hot in the summer. At the moment, it’s because of lower back pain which, for various reasons, I can’t completely get rid of for the moment. We talk a lot about why sleep is important and how to improve the quality of our sleep, and this all holds true. However, there are times, whether it’s because you have a young child, a noisy neighbour or something medical going on, when we sleep badly and there’s not much we can do.
So I thought it might be helpful to talk a little bit about how to remain productive and as well as possible in these situations.
The first thing to say is that productivity becomes even more key if you’re tired. A sleepy brain is more easily distracted and we have less willpower to bring it back, so focusing on your output rather than being digitally available all the time is a good place to start. It’s also a good idea to reflect on when you have the most energy and try to do your most challenging work at that time. I’m finding at the moment that all creative energy leaves me at about 2pm and doesn’t come back until 6pm; rather than fight that, I use that period for admin and other ‘mindless’ tasks. If you’re in a team, be honest about what you’re dealing with. They may be able to support you and take a few things off your plate, and it’ll help you carve out that precious focused time.
Secondly, however tempting it might be, don’t assume that caffeine is your saviour. The tricky thing about caffeine is that it does make us feel better, but not in the way we think. We actually get used to it very quickly, so we end up feeling worse than ‘baseline’ without it, and all your morning latté is doing is bringing you back to where you’d be if you’d never started drinking it in the first place. It is, in essence, a mild physiological addiction. It’s also a surefire way to send us on a nice blood-sugar rollercoaster for the day, which tends to have us reaching for sugary treats all day, especially when we’re already tired. Instead of becoming a caffeine junkie, try the following to perk yourself up:
Movement: doing some gentle exercise in the morning will get your heart rate and temperature up and make you feel much more awake. It might be the last thing you feel like doing but it will help.
Other warm drinks: low body temperature makes us feel tired, so try warm water with lemon or herbal teas to raise your core temperature a bit.
Hydrate: de-hydration makes us very sluggish, so make sure you’re drinking plenty of water throughout the day.
Breathwork: a few deep breaths can make all the difference to how we feel and there’s no limit to how often you can do this throughout the day
Finally, there are a few other ways to replenish energy if you’re sleeping terribly. You could try yoga nidra, or yogic sleep, which is a deep form of relaxation that has similar restorative benefits to a good night’s sleep. Or you can allow yourself to catch up on sleep with afternoon naps on the weekend. This is much better than lie-ins, which disrupt our sleep patterns. Try to stick with your routine, as sleeping in over the weekend effectively gives us a form of jet lag and makes us feel terrible on a Monday. Naps should ideally be 20 minutes (which won’t leave you groggy as you won’t fall into deep sleep) or 1h30 (the length of a full sleep cycle). Early afternoon is ideal; you definitely don’t want to be waking up from a nap in the dark.
None of these are substitutes for regular, high quality sleep, but they do help to cope in the times where that is out of our control.
If you feel like you or anyone on your team is struggling with sleep or anything else that might be impacting their performance at work, we can help. Drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.