Pulling all-nighters might have been a caffeine-infused strategy for school exams, but in the work world, science says cut it out or suffer the consequences.
A recent study, published in the Swedish journal Sleep took a small sample of healthy men and kept them awake all night –playing games and watching movies. That’s far less stressful that burning the midnight oil to prepare for a big sales presentation, but the experiment showed that the men’s blood levels of certain proteins linked to brain injuries were 20% higher than when they got a solid eight hours of sleep.
Those night owls who feel that sense of euphoria from staying awake and reaching a goal should proceed at their own risk. This “high” that fuels the next day could not only hurt your memory, it can also make it hard for you to adapt to new situations.
While an occasional night up won’t do irreparable damage in this way, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania discovered that consistent lack of sleep can kill off some neurons and harm others.
Still not convinced to kick your “always on” habit? Rather than a prize for being the most dedicated, the only thing you’ll win is being most likely to perform poorly on the job. “Workaholics may be able to power through sleep deprivation for a short amount of time,” says Jennifer Turgiss, a coauthor of a sleep study from the Virgin Pulse Institute. “Showing up to work sleep deprived can be the equivalent of showing up to work intoxicated.”
Here are four practical tips for powering down properly so you can score big sales the following day.
The state of your room is critical to getting a good night’s sleep, so take stock of its condition. Noise and light can spell disruption, but did you know that the temperature is a big factor in how well you’ll rest?
Experts from the Sleep Foundation recommend setting the thermostat to about 65 degrees. That’s because you’re body naturally cools as you doze off and your internal thermometer stays low until dawn. Research indicates insomnia has been associated with elevated core body temperature.
On a related note, there’s nothing like exercise to make you feel physically ready to sleep. Just don’t jump on the treadmill at 9 p.m. Not only will it make you hot –not an ideal temperature for resting– but it can take up to six hours to cool down.
A good work out can also make you more alert and kickstart your metabolism, better served up at the beginning of the day rather than just before you pull back the covers. Experts recommend hitting the gym or the trail in the afternoon (which can also quell cravings for snacks during the sloggy hours after lunch) and being consistent with the exercise routine. A recent study found that after four months of three 30-minute sessions a week, participants were sleeping at least 45 minutes more per night.
You know how drowsy you can feel after a big meal. You can skip the tryptophan-laden turkey dinner, though. The soporific chemical is also found in dairy (hello glass of warm milk), nuts, and bananas. Eating just a little bit before bedtime can help you sleep better. Conversely, pigging out on a fat burger and fries can disrupt your natural sleep cycles.
Thanks to our smartphones, we’re able to be working even when we’re not physically at work. Unfortunately, checking your phone before you hit the hay is one of the worst things you can do. Not only is there the potential stress of perusing an email with an urgent customer request, the light of the screen is wrecking havoc with circadian rhythms –otherwise known as your biological clock.
This internal timepiece becomes easily aroused when exposed to the kind of short wavelength blue light given off by digital devices and energy-efficient bulbs delay the release of melatonin, the chemical that lets us slip into slumber. So banish the laptop and phone to another room, they’ll still be there when you wake.