We all have these items on our to do list. We all want to be in tune with our work, harmonize with our team, and love what we do. Conversely, we need the resources to experience the adventures modernity has to offer. Traveling, city breaks, amazing escapes, meeting people, reinventing, and rediscovering oneself. Hence, our bucket list.
Yet, there is one key element that affects our existence. Our most valuable resource: time. And for some reason, most of us spend almost 1/3 of our lives sleeping. And those that don’t, should. Balance work and life through better sleep to be productive, stay passionate, and get into focus.
How sleep deficit affects you
A century ago, sleeping at work was unimaginable. At best, it was either ridiculed or punished. Nowadays, several companies have acknowledged the issue of insufficient sleep. The total cost in lost productivity is hundreds of billions per year. A decrease in overall performance or creativity, as well as other issues factor in. Not sleeping enough costs a lot of money. And businesses are catching up.
People sleep less because the world is different. And jobs require more creativity because work is different. Hence, we have people sleeping far less than they should. In effect, this creates a sleep deficit. And the next day, people are zombies. While they can be productive with repetitive tasks, it’s all sluggish. Furthermore, imagine any sort of creative work happening without sleep.
Productivity and creativity go down in two ways. Firstly, not getting enough sleep the night before. Secondly, having an accumulated sleep deficit. Sleep deficit is sleep debt. It accumulates over time and gets back at you. And you become less energetic and more prone to illnesses. You feel less happy, less productive. Most of all, it makes it hard for you to think strategically. Also, it makes it impossible to work with people in ways they enjoy.
It’s no surprise that companies choose to change all of this.
Ways to balance work and life in modern “nurseries”
Imagine two management decisions. The first is having someone work for 6 hours with utmost efficiency. The second is having someone work 10 hours while feeling beat. Only one of these is a false option. Care to guess? Sleep deprivation is the same as working drunk.
Many employers that value the productivity of their workforce offer nap rooms. While working, you can take a small break. Picture a room dedicated to sleeping. Simply go ahead and spend 30-50 minutes and relax. Come back to work when ready, all fresh.
A special flavor of nap rooms is sleep pods. Although similar to nap rooms, they offer more privacy. Besides, you can use them for other activities than sleeping. You could read a book or meditate. Come back to work when ready, all refreshed.
Flexible schedules and collaborative solutions
A great deal of solutions for individuals need to factor in teams and teamwork. Personal balance is important, sure, but most important nowadays is teamwork. Yet, the best way to allow people to balance work and life is to set them free. But how can you have people working for you while also giving them freedom?
Perhaps one of the most cost-effective solution is flexible schedules. Some businesses can decide to start their operations later in the day. This allows people to come for work at later hours, or in a set interval. Instead of starting work at 08:00, you can start work anytime from 09:00 to 11:00.
Another option is creating project-like tasks. If your work is project based, you can easily cover a lot of it when you feel ready. This way, you can choose when to work and offer your best results. All you need is a loose deadline. Sleep when you want, work when you want. And your team will love it.
Taking flexible schedules to the extreme, you have freelance contractors. These guys can sleep whenever, work whenever. You’d expect that people doing such work are unproductive. The opposite is true. Successful freelancers are masters of balance. And to master balance, you need to master sleep.
How proper sleep helps
The utility of sleep is that of repairing your brain. Also, it aids with the organization of long-term memory. And it serves as a buffer and healing-time for your brain. Moreover, when you sleep, a lot of odd things happen to your body:
- Your muscles paralyze.
- Your body temperature drops.
- You burn calories and lose weight.
- You eliminate toxins.
- And the list could go on 🙂
It’s poetic. Sleep has a night-time symmetry to our daily activities. If we don’t sleep, we become less effective. Also, we get more irritable, more anxious. And this affects the people we interact with. Since we get grumpy, we become unpleasant. And coworkers will even hate us a bit. After all, they are there to work, not to cope with our grumpy behavior. Teams suffer.
If you don’t balance work and life, you cannot be happy. And less happy means less creative. Most jobs today require, in part, creativity. And without creativity, a lot of your work loses insight and value. Most of all, you lose health. You become ill more frequently. And to what end? Your team will feel like you’re not there. That’s ironic. Nowadays you can summon your team in seconds.
Conversely, if you don’t balance work and life, you lose productivity, a lot of it. The current estimate is hundreds of billions per year worldwide. And this is 100% sleep-deprivation-related.
Performance while drunk is similar to sleep-deprivation performance. Only that you don’t get to have the fun. And it is incredibly bad for productivity. In fact, businesses have already recognized the value of getting enough sleep.
Sleep productively with sleep cycles
The recommended sleep duration for adults is between 7 to 8 hours. It takes about 15 minutes for the average adult to fall asleep. It takes an average of 90 minutes for a full sleep cycle to happen. Ideally, you will sleep in multiples of 90 minutes + what you need to fall asleep (those 15 minutes, on average).
Here’s how to calculate the utility of 8 hours of sleep. For the average adult, 7 hours and 30 minutes of sleep and 15 minutes to fall asleep. Yes, that adds up to 7 hours and a 45 minutes. Also, it’s a perfect collection of exactly 5 sleep cycles of 90 minutes each.
There is a reason why you’re better off sleeping so many cycles on end. With every incremental consecutive cycle, the non-REM sleep duration decreases. The REM sleep duration increases. You are getting a bit more sleep in REM for every cycle. Sleeping 5 consecutive cycles means more REM sleep than sleeping 6 non-consecutive cycles.
Ever woke up when you felt like you need to wake up? A few minutes before the time you set up your alarm for? Ever felt the eerie pleasure of feeling rested and serene? Ready to go about your morning routine with some pleasure and enthusiasm? Without any panic or hurry, or anxiety of any kind?
That’s because you woke up at precisely the right time. Exactly after a full sleep cycle. This is not magic. It’s something you can experience every day. What you need to do is count your ideal sleep time and set an alarm for that particular waking time.
Let’s say you want to wake up at 04:00 A.M., for whatever reason. To wake at the right time, you need to sleep 07:45. Discounted from 04:00 A.M., that’s 20:15 P.M. This is the time you need to go to bed. Sounds like a great plan, doesn’t it?
Particularly when you wake up at 04:00 and have a full day of enhanced productivity. There are a lot of sleep calculators out there, do the math and see what you need. And make sure you get the sleep that you need. Most of all, to balance work and life you need to be punctual. And waking up at the right time is essential.
When in debt, take a power nap
There are 2 ways to deal with sleep deficit. The first is pretty straight forward. Use weekends and every possible occasion to get back on track with your sleep. Get to 100% as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the greater the damage.
The second way to deal with sleep deficit is by making proper use of power naps.
Research on how sleep deprivation affects military personnel suggests that balance is crucial. Even one sleepless night has great impact on cognition and decision making. And the military have some of the best teamwork known to man.
Studies on military personnel suggest that power naps help you recover a lot. An effective recovery is taking a 15-30-minute power nap. This reboots a great deal of your ability to do meaningful, creative work. It will help you engage in effective decision making.
You could try a double power-nap. That is a two-15-minute-pair of power-naps. And you can cut it short by a brief walk or some sort of activity. You need that interruption so that don’t go into full-sleep-mode. Particularly when your sleep deficit is very high.
One last thing
Treat how you sleep the same way you treat your work, your nutrition, or your exercise plans. Dedicate the right amount of planning, time, recovery, and rehabilitation.
Also, the true value of your contribution to any team effort requires that you give it your best. Learning happens while you sleep, therefore you get better at your job by sleeping. Lastly, balance work and life by separating them with a large portion of recovery.