Snooze Your Way to the Top: The Importance of Sleep to Your Success

Raise your hand if you are feeling a little stressed out these days. More than a little? I feel ya.

Many of us are working hard to balance a career, education, and family life. It’s tough and can be very stressful.

Unfortunately, stress and anxiety may cause sleeping problems, or make existing sleeping problems worse. It is hard to shut down that constantly ticking to-do list that runs through your mind as you are trying to sleep, or stop questioning how you are going to pay back that loan. Hours pass by and the next thing you know, it is 4 am and you are still tossing and turning!

But sleep is a basic human need, and lays the groundwork for how productive we can be during the day. While most people need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep to function well the next day, about 40% of Americans get less than 7 hours.

Plus, women are more likely than men to have difficulty falling and staying asleep, and to experience more daytime sleepiness at least a few days a week, according to a 2005 National Sleep Foundation poll.

Sleep deprivation has both physical and social consequences. Physically, lack of sleep puts you at increased risk of illness, stress, traffic accidents and weight gain. Socially, you will never function at your personal best if you are tired. Sleep deprivation will affect work decisions, relationship challenges, and basically any life situation that will require you to use sound judgment.

Here are 10 sleep tips to help our nation of sleepless women snooze their way to the top!

  1. Set your body clock: go to bed and wake up at around the same time everyday, even on the weekends. While you don’t need to physically set an alarm to remind yourself to go to bed, pick a time and stick with it! This will help put your body on a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
  2. Black out: any form of light can disturb sleep. Turn off TVs, computers, tablets, and even hall lights.
  3. Drown out noise: while it may be tempting to fall asleep with music or a TV show on, you never know when the sound will spike and wake you up. Try sleeping with a fan on to drown out any background noise.
  4. Breathe: while there is always a to-do list that could be running through your head, this stress may be keeping you up! Instead, focus on your breathing. Listen to your inhales and exhales, or trying placing your hand on your belly to feel your stomach rise and fall with each breath. Shifting your focus away from your mind will help you fall asleep.
  5. Avoid naps: napping makes matters worse if you have trouble falling asleep. If you must nap, make it less than 20 minutes. If an afternoon slump hits, try going for a walk or calling a friend to wake you up.
  6. Block the clock: if you are having trouble falling asleep, or wake up in the middle of the night, looking at the clock will only stress you out! You will start to worry about how few hours sleep left before you start your busy day. Fight the temptation to steal a look at your cell phone, and just trust that you will fall asleep soon.
  7. Reserve the bed for sleep: don’t use the bed to balance your checkbooks, watch TV or talk on the phone. Your bedroom should be associated with rest and relaxation.
  8. Cut the caffeine: while many people depend on coffee throughout the day, try cutting out caffeine after noon. This includes the obvious beverages like coffee, tea and some sodas, but chocolate and decaffeinated coffee may impact your sleep rest. Read labels, some pain relievers contain caffeine!
  9. Rethink your drink: having a glass of wine or beer before bed may make you feel drowsy at bedtime, but alcohol actually causes more frequent awakenings at night and a less restful sleep. Replace your wine glass with a mug of chamomile tea for a better evening beverage choice.
  10. Exercise: regular exercise has been shown to improve sleep quality, as long as you don’t work out too close to bedtime. Aim to finish vigorous exercise at least 3 to 4 hours before you hit the hay. Gentle exercise, like yoga and tai chi, are great pre-bedtime routines to calm your mind and body.

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