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Fit Tip of the Month - Sleep Deficit and Work Productivity

Many people know the importance of sleep.  Lack of sleep is linked to higher cortisol levels, can lead to weight gain and even increase your risk for certain disease and conditions.   Though it seems obvious that a sleep deficit would not allow you to perform at your best, only recently has the medical world really recognized the importance of adequate sleep for overall health and wellbeing.

Jim Maas, a pioneer in sleep research and former chair of the psychology department at Cornell University has spent the last 40 years trying to convince companies that workers who are sleep deprived can be very costly to the company.   Similar to poor eating and exercise habits, lack of sleep can put employees at risk for hypertension, heart attacks, strokes, cancer, Type 2 diabetes and more.    Maas states “then there are issues of mental and emotional health.  All of that translates into higher insurance costs.”  Sleep deprivation can also cause employees to have a lack of creativity, being less alert and even grumpy.  Maas thinks that by encouraging employees to sleep more, companies could help contain the ever increasing health care costs.

He believes more sleep could increase productivity, job satisfaction and   creativity.   Maas is actually the one who coined the term ‘power nap’ when working as a consultant for IBM 38 years ago.   This was also the time that ‘power breakfasts and power lunches’ were emerging.  He thought ‘power naps’ would be more beneficial.   He found that a 10-15 minute power nap could give employees the pick-up they need without interrupting their sleep at night.   This was also a much better solution than over consuming caffeine.   Though a nap in the middle of the day is unrealistic for most, Maas does   suggest the following to ensure quality sleep at night:  Get a high coil count mattress, invest in a great pillow, cut out all nicotine, avoid caffeine in the afternoon and alcohol within three hours of bedtime and set the thermometer at 65-67 degrees. Electronics can interfere with your sleep, therefore put masking tape over electronic lights and avoid using laptop and iPads close to bedtime.   Calm your mind with pre-sleep routine that include a hot bath, music, meditation, yoga or light reading. Journaling your feelings can help get sleep disrupting thoughts out of your head.

If you are curious if your lack of logging hours on the pillow is turning into sleep deprivation, pay attention to how long it takes you to fall asleep.  Are you out before you can even say good night to your family or as soon as your head hits the   pillow on a consistent basis? Then you are most likely sleep deprived.  “It takes about 20 minutes for the well-rested person to fall asleep,” states Maas.   Trying to make-up sleep is similar to just eating well and exercising on the weekends, it just simply does not work.  Just as with exercise and food choices, consistency is the key to being well rested.


Author: Sara Baker Sept. 30, 2014


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