We all know the importance of sleep for a clear mind and problem solving, and we do casually talk about it here and there.
But before 2016 we had no measurable proof of how deep the impact is. That's when the first study of sleep debt and its economical impact was done by RAND Europe.
What they found left everyone in owe. It turns out that sleep deprivation costs the economy over $410 billion in USA alone.
The primary concern of this article this article is not the global impact but the personal well-being which, in turn, inevitably leads to more efficient problem-solving skills and an increased job performance.
So let us see what's wrong about the way we sleep today and what we can do about it.
Step #1 - Forget about the eight hour rule
The way we sleep hasn't changed since the Industrial Revolution. That's when the rule of 8 hours was introduced to adjust to the schedule of the workforce.
That's where the problem is.
From a scientific point of view, good sleep is not just about the hours. But, somehow, the 8-hour rule stuck and it's still the first thing that comes to mind when you think about getting enough sleep.
What is the issue with the eight hour rule?
It's pretty simple - human body and mind are not designed to optimally function with a strictly defined chunk of time dedicated to sleep.
Step #2 - Use sleep phases aa your measuring stick
Learn about sleep phases and make sure your schedule is crafted around sleeping in full phases. In fact one of the worst things that can happen is waking up in the middle of deep sleep.
Yet, that's exactly what happens when the alarm clock sounds off.
The adjustment process is pretty simple - get a sleep tracker and determine the length of your sleep phase. Once you have that number, revisit the time you go to bed and wake up.
It usually takes 5 to 6 phases to wake up rested and refreshed.
Step #3 – Choosing a mattress that fits your body type
It might sound odd, but choosing a good mattress should be more about what feels right at the store.
Sure, there are people with different preferences in terms of the mattress firmness, there's no two ways about it.
But to be sure that the source of problems like back pain and chronic fatigue is not the mattress or sleeping on, you need to take it one step further. That means doing research on your body type and what's the best mattress for it.
A good example of that are heavy and overweight people who need to be especially picky when it comes to choosing a mattress. It's all about body composition, pressure points and spine alignment.
Best mattresses for heavy people will find a very specific balance between support and loft. In most cases, the right balance for a heavy person will be a hybrid between the sturdiness of innersprings and the comfort of foam and latex – you can see what mattresses TheSleepStudies.com choose as best for heavy people here.
On the other hand, for the ectomorph (slim, small-framed person) classic memory foam will offer enough support.
Step #4 - Eliminate the distractions
The bedroom is supposed to be a soothing escape from our fast-paced lives.
Not many of us manage to separate the two. All sorts of distractions find their way into the bedroom… from our laptops and tablets to our kid's toys.
Make a conscious decision to eliminate the clutter and act on it.
Step #5 - Take timeout to wind down
Even when we're not working or tending to our children, our minds still race.
Most of us don't even try to be "selfish" and take some time off.
This doesn't mean taking a full day to go shopping or play tennis; it can be as simple as developing routines and habits to detach yourself from the race and wind down.
It's a skill that can be acquired and, like most new habits, it shouldn't take more than a month to re-program your brain.
Take a moment right now and think back to all the problems you had and how much you obsessed about them, even in your spare time. Then, ask yourself this question, "Did all the thinking actually help?"
Again, it comes down to making a conscious effort to finish all the demanding chores and then "let go" as the day winds down.
Your life can change
Think about it like this - improving your sleep is not just about you and it is not a selfish project. A happy, fresh and rested person will be both a better parent and a more productive worker.
What we said above might sound complicated and you might feel that you simply don't have the time to do it.
But if you go back and scan the list of 5 steps, you'll find that it doesn't actually require much of your time. It's more about planning and making the decisions to not simply go with the flow.
You just need that initial kick start.