The Big Idea
Sleep is your secret weapon when it comes to productivity.
Questions I Answer
- How many hours of sleep should I get at night?
- How does sleep affect my productivity?
- What’s the best way to fall asleep quickly?
- What are some tips to getting better sleep?
Key Topics in the Show
The negative ways that lack of sleep affects decision making and other important functions
How sleep impacts human growth and aging
The role of inadequate sleep in depression
Strategies for determining how much sleep you need to be your best self
How to nap for maximum productivity
The Relax and Win method to fall asleep quickly
7 tips to achieving a better night’s sleep
Please Note: Unfortunately, the download mentioned in this episode is no longer available.
Welcome to season nine of Productivity Paradox with Tanya Dalton, a podcast focused on using productivity, not just to do more, but to achieve what’s most important to you. Join Tanya has she kicks off the New Year with a special season titled, New Year True You. And now here’s your host Tanya Dalton.
Hello, hello, everyone. Welcome to Productivity Paradox. I’m your host, Tanya Dalton, and this is episode 113, Improve Your Sleep and Increase Productivity. How does sleep fit into our season of new year true you? Well, a good night sleep can be the difference between a highly productive day and a draggy unproductive one, of course.
But it’s also really the difference between being your very best version of yourself or well, a grump, otherwise known as not the best version of you. So today, I want to share with you some of the negative effects of not getting the right amount of sleep. We’re going to talk about how you can use naps to get you going on those days where you need a little extra productivity boost, and I’ll be sharing with you some techniques on how to get to sleep faster and we’ll be sprinkling in some tips on bedtime routines and setting up your sleep environment to get you in the mood for sleeping, that is.
All right, let’s start by having a quick word from today’s sponsor, Gusto. Gusto offers easy-to-run payroll services and HR support for small businesses around the country. I personally use Gusto for my company, and we absolutely love working with them. I’ll be sharing with you a little later on in the episode how you can get three months free when you run your first payroll later on in this episode.
But let’s go ahead and talk about sleep because lack of sleep really does affect us. Listen, the truth of the matter is there is no studies out there that say a lack of sleep is good for anyone, or working so hard that you’re not sleeping at night is going to be good for business. In fact, it’s the contrary and I think we know that.
There are tons and tons of studies out there that show that poor sleep whether it’s due to the lack of quantity or the quality of your sleep can have really negative impacts on your productivity and how we function in our days. Now, we all know that when we don’t get enough sleep, we’re grumpy. We also become poor decision makers and that’s really new. We know it affects our thinking when we’re overtired, which of course can lead to more accidents and injuries.
As a matter of fact, did you know that sleep deprivation was a major factor in some of the biggest disasters in history like the 1979 nuclear accident at Three Mile Island, and also the massive oil spill of the Exxon Valdez? Studies have shown too that there’s a
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connection between a lack of sleep and symptoms of depression. In fact, depression and insomnia can actually feed off one another. Depression can make it difficult to fall asleep and then the lack of sleep contributes to feelings of depression. It’s this vicious cycle that’s really hard to break.
But did you also know that the lack of sleep contributes to signs of aging? This was really surprising to me. We all know the we get dark circles or puffy eyes when you don’t get enough shut-eye but your body releases more of that stress hormone cortisol and this breaks down skin collagen causing skin to lose its natural elasticity and its smoothness.
Sleep deprivation can also inhibit the body’s release of human growth hormones which increases muscle mass, thickening skin and strengthening bones as we age. We really need to get into that deep sleep in order to produce that growth hormone to repair our normal tissue wear and tear every day. Not getting enough sleep is giving you wrinkles. That’s all I heard here, I don’t know about you but I heard not enough sleep, more wrinkles. And I don’t know, that really makes me want to get a little more sleep at night.
So instead of splurging on that expensive night cream, maybe we should be splurging a little more on sleep. But the big question is how much sleep do you really need? And that’s not really a simple answer. There’s no one-size-fits-all amount of sleep that everyone needs. It’s actually a range depending on your age and a few other factors. And you probably remember a hearing about this in health class way back when.
For adults, the general rule of thumb is between 7 and 9 hours. Some need more, some need less. Just like in life, we’re all a little bit different and I know you might be thinking, “Well, I’m the type of person who can get by on a lot less sleep.” But did you know really it’s only 3% of the population that has this rare gene that allows them to get less than six hours of sleep and still function normally the next day?
And that’s the catch here, still function normally the next day, which means they get less than six hours of sleep and they don’t need to suck down extra caffeine in order to make it through the day. They can still function. For the other 97% of us, we need to clock in the right amount of hours in order to be our best selves each and every day.
So how do you figure out with that amount of time is? What is your optimal amount of sleep? Well, I recommend approaching this like a scientist. You can try to figure out the amount of sleep you need by setting an alarm for seven hours, and then wake up,
see how you feel. Pay attention throughout the day. Are you yawning? Are you reaching for sodas or coffee all day? That’s probably a sign you didn’t quite get enough the night before.
So bump it up a little bit. Maybe try setting the alarm for seven and a half hours and then again, pay attention to how you feel and keep bumping it up until you find the right amount. And I know what you’re thinking. Well, obviously, the more sleep you get, the better off you are? But that’s not necessarily true either.
Funny enough, the effects of sleeping too much are just about the same as not getting enough. We want to find our sweet spot of sleep. The amount that’s just right
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for you kind of like Goldilocks, not too little not too much, just right. But what if you don’t get it just right? What if you don’t get enough sleep? I want to share more about what we should do when we don’t get enough sleep in just a minute.
But first, let’s have a quick word for my podcast sponsor, Gusto. Gusto is a great payroll benefits and HR tool for any small-business owner and I’m telling you this because Gusto is what we use ourselves at inkWELL Press. You can sign, store and organize employee documents all online. It makes it seamless. Gusto also automatically files and pays all the state, local and federal payroll taxes, one less thing to worry about.
Expert HR support is also just a phone call away to help you answer any of your questions. And my podcast listeners get three months free once you’ve set up and run your first payroll. Simply go to Gusto.com/paradox and take advantage of this great small business tool.
Let’s get back into talking about what do we do if we don’t get enough sleep. Even on these times where have the best laid plans, we might have nights where we don’t get our optimal amount of sleep. When your kid knocks on the bedroom door at 2 a.m. with a fever, you’re up half the night. Maybe you have a big presentation or an event coming up. You’re staying up way too late all week working on it, or maybe a late night out at a party. It happens, right? We don’t get enough sleep.
I think we can all agree most of us don’t get the sleep we need. So I want to tell you about a little trick that you can use to give you that extra boost you need on those days that you find yourself yawning every other minute. Are you ready for this? It’s
called a nap. Yeah, I know, not a new thing, right? But in fact, your grandma is actually probably a very big fan of the nap. And you know what? She’s right on track.
Now, even if you haven’t been using the nap, it’s one of the best things you can do on those days when you didn’t get enough sleep that your body needed or even if you did, to give you that extra boost of productivity. You might be surprised to find that a good nap doesn’t take much time at all. And that’s the thing that holds a lot of people back. They think, “I don’t have time for a nap.” As a matter of fact, you do.
There is an ideal length of time for a nap. It’s 26 minutes. I call them 26ers. And I take one about every other day or so. Honestly, I take a 26er probably at least four days out of the week. Now, your first reaction might be this sounds so unproductive, but taking a nap actually makes you super productive.
I’m telling you, this is one of the things that I do all the time because it truly makes a difference but maybe you don’t believe me. Let me give you some science to back this up. Back in the mid-1990s, NASA actually did a study that found that 26-minute naps improve performance 34% and alertness 54%.
If you do find yourself really dragging throughout the day, it might be the boost you need to make the rest of your day productive. I know for me, it gives me just the right amount of productivity boost that I need in the second half of my day. So why is it 26 minutes? Well, the key is you don’t want to nap for too long we’re going to zonk out
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for several hours, then you wake up all groggy and feeling worse than before when you took your nap.
We all know that we have different phases of sleep. Well, 26 minutes is the ideal length of time to refresh and reenergize before you hit that deep sleep mode. As a matter of fact, have you ever woken up from a nap and felt kind of a little bit loopy? It’s because you woke up in the middle of that deep sleep cycle, and that’s what we want to avoid. We want to close our eyes and set the alarm on your phone for 26 minutes.
Now, I’m not suggesting you get caught sleeping on the job by any means. But if you schedule it into your day, maybe during your lunch break, then it’s on your own time and you won’t affect anything that you’re supposed to do. Head out to your car, find a quiet spot in the office, put on a sleep mask and set the timer. Get a little bit of shut eye.
I take a nap some afternoons after I get home. I tell my kids … Literally, I say, “Ah, it’s time for a 26er,” and I head to my room. Now, my kids are old enough that I can do that. Yours might not be, but even closing your eyes and not fully sleeping while they watch a quick episode on Nick Junior is just the right amount of time.
Now here’s the thing I want you to keep in mind. This does not make you a bad mom. In fact, the rest will make you a better mom, a productive mom that’s much happier and more patient for the rest of the day. So you might be thinking, “Nap in 26 minutes? Impossible. I can’t even fall asleep for half an hour most times.”
So I’m going to share with you a method on falling asleep that the army uses, and it takes less than two minutes. It actually comes from a book from the 1980s called Relax & Win. It’s not a new technique obviously. It’s been around since the 80s but I know many people who’ve tried this and found it to be really successful. I know for me on the times that I’m having a hard time relaxing, this is what I do.
So here’s what you do. Before you get started, you make sure your phone is turned off or in silent mode and your alarm is set for whatever time you’re wanting to get up. Only have your bedside lamp on. When you’re ready to fall asleep, sit on the edge of your bed. And then you’re going to work on relaxing your body starting from the top, working your way to the bottom while breathing in and out and listening to the sound of your breath.
With each breath, I want you to move down your body one zone at a time. So, start with relaxing your face. Tighten up your facial muscles by making a wincing motion and slowly and naturally, let those muscles relax. Then let your tongue fall in whichever way it wants to in your mouth. And then after you’ve relaxed your face, look over your shoulders and let gravity pull them naturally downward.
Allow your arms to dangle and then let your chest relax further, then relax your thighs and your lower legs all the way down to your feet and toes. And then once you moved down to your toes, I want you to clear your mind for 10 seconds. Keep your body relaxed and loose. And then I want you to picture one of the following scenarios in your mind either lying in a canoe on a calm lake with clear blue skies above you or
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lying in a pitch-black room in a hammock, gently swaying in the darkness. I want you to do this sitting on the edge of your bed and then I want you to lay down.
Now I don’t know if you could hear that in my voice but I felt like I was so relaxed in sharing this technique with you because this is something I find incredibly helpful on those nights where I just need to turn my brain off. Just taking a little bit of time to practice this technique can make a huge difference. And I think you’ll notice you fall asleep much faster. Really, it’s as simple as doing a couple of really small tweaks in order to really get that better sleep we’re all craving. We all want to sleep better and it really doesn’t take that much work.
I have seven tips to share with you on how to get a better night sleep. Now I’m going to go through these one by one but I also have a download to make it easier. You can grab that at inkWELLpress.com/podcast and go to episode 113. What I would really encourage you to do is print out this download. Put it next to your bed because I want to encourage you to incorporate at least one or two of these techniques, if not, the whole seven of them because I really think they can make a huge difference.
Let’s start with tip #1, create an evening routine. Listen, adults, we need a bedtime too. The best thing you can do for yourself to set yourself up for a good night sleep is establish a routine. A lot of us put our kids to bed at night at a regular time and we have a whole routine we go through. We forget that that would really help us as well. Instead, we tend to get sucked into a TV show or we browse social media and then all of a sudden we look up and it’s past midnight, and we’ve got to get up for work and then we stress ourselves out.
Really establishing a nighttime routine will really make a big difference in triggering your brain to know it’s ready to go to bed. You can include some really great soothing and calming activities to help you relax. So, this could include taking a bath, lighting a
candle, listening to relaxing music, doing some stretches or meditation, doing that exercise we just talked about a few minutes ago with relaxing your body. But creating an evening routine really can make a huge difference.
The second tip is to implement a caffeine curfew. We all enjoy a little caffeine kick now and then, me included. But caffeine stays in your body for six hours and that can really disrupt your sleep cycle. So, what I would encourage you to do is have a cut-off time for consuming caffeine. Pick a designated time and then no more caffeine, so maybe that’s four o’clock if you want to go to bed around 10:00.
And then in the evening after your designated time, maybe try drinking things that are calming like a decaf tea. I have a sleepy time tea. It’s a part of my evening routine that I really enjoy because it’s very calming and warm and it’s just something that I really enjoy. So, think about what you could do to cut out that caffeine.
The third tip is to change your lighting. We’ve all heard about blue light and how it can have a really negative impact on our sleep and really even on our eyes. Try using an app like Night Shift or f.lux on your desktop to try to turn those blue lights into a warm or orange light. A lot of the tech that we have nowadays really will adjust itself depending on the time of day, so check to see if you have those settings in your
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phone and on your computer, but really making sure that you’re not having a lot of that harsh lighting in the evening.
The fourth tip is to darken your bedroom. Kind of piggybacking a little bit off that idea from tip #3, but we often don’t realize how much extra outside light sources are affecting our sleep. They’re creeping in through the windows in different areas from street lamps and outside house lights, a bright full moon. Even in the summer when it stays light outside longer, it’s really hard for your body to trigger that melatonin that it has inside of itself to want to fall asleep.
A couple of tricks, you could get blackout shades which are relatively inexpensive especially if you get them from the hardware store, or even cheaper get a sleep mask. Put that on, black out the room and really enjoy a little bit of extra sleep by having a darker bedroom.
The fifth tip is to create a sleep sanctuary. Listen, beds are not meant to be desks. So, try not to work from your bed. Make your bed a place for sleeping, so that when you get in the bed, your body knows it’s ready in that right frame of mind to go to sleep. And don’t forget when we’re talking about a sanctuary, get rid of some of that extra clutter that’s around especially on your nightstand or next to your TV.
Wherever you look first thing in the morning and last thing at night, we want to have that sanctuary feel. That will help us relax. We touched on this a couple of weeks ago when we talked about how to organize anything, about that feeling we get when life feels a little less cluttered and a little more organized. Take advantage of that in your bedroom so you can feel like you’re going to sleep in a sanctuary.
The sixth tip is to lower the temperature in your room. The optimal temperature for sleeping is about 60 degrees Fahrenheit, so it ranges from 60 to 72 degrees. So, think about lowering your AC. You could use a fan or even open the window if the weather
is nice or you could consider using a cooling mattress or lighter weight sheets. But really lowering your body temperature can help you get into that deeper sleep.
And then the seventh tip is to stick to a regular sleep schedule. This helps more than anything. We want to regulate your body’s internal clock, so it knows when it’s time to go to sleep and it knows what time to wake up each day. This helps your body get into a rhythm that will help you fall asleep more regularly.
Also, if you know you have to get up early to catch a train or maybe you have a big presentation, work backwards and figure out what time you need to go to bed in order to get that ideal amount of sleep that’s right for you. The key here though is to keep some sort of regular schedule going, if you can. That repetition really works well for your body. Your body craves that rhythm and that cycle.
I want to encourage you to download all seven of these tips and print them out and start implementing them. Just go to inkWELLpress.com/podcast and look under episode 113. I want you to get started setting yourself up with some really good sleep habits and routines. I really think you’ll begin to see how much of a difference this makes in your day.
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And if you’re one of those people who thinks that surviving on a little amount of sleep each night and burning the candle at both ends is a badge of honor, I really want you to think again. The long-term effects of sleep deprivation far outweigh the benefits of
those bragging rights. We want to make sure we’re taking care of our bodies. And if you want to function better, you want to be happier, you want to be more productive, schedule the right amount of sleep each and every night. It really can make a huge difference for you.
And speaking of making a big difference, I want to share with you the review of the week because this one really made me so happy to read. For those of you who don’t remember, every episode, I am sharing an iTunes review, an email, an Instagram comment, something that somebody has said about the podcast that has helped brighten their day, because truly it brightens mine.
And when we share the word, when we spread the word about the podcast, it helps us share the messages. It helps us spread the word about intentionality and living a productive life and that we’re not doing more of focusing on what’s most important. And that is why these reviews mean so much to me.
Let me share you this one from Lyla Gray who says, “In the minutes I have to focus on myself, I often find myself listening to Tanya Dalton. I love that the focus is finding true happiness instead of getting the most things done. Feeds the soul.” I can’t tell you how much that means to me that last sentence, feeds the soul. That makes me incredibly happy. So, Lyla Gray, please send my team an email and I will handwrite you a thank-you note this week. Thank you so much for leaving a review.
And next week on the show, I have an amazing guest in store for you. We are going to be talking about knowing your enneagram and how it can change your life. Jenn Jett is coming on the show. I cannot wait for you to hear what she shared with me during our interview. It is so incredibly good you will definitely want to tune in.
And in the meantime, I would love to see you in my Facebook group. It’s an amazing place on the internet, full of support and encouragement as we work towards becoming the very best version of ourselves. So, until next time, have a beautiful and productive week.
Thanks for listening to Productivity Paradox. To get free access to Tanya’s valuable checklist, five minutes to peak productivity, simply go to inkWELLpress.com/podcast.
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