How Sleep Impacts Productivity + 9 Tips for Better Sleep

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How Sleep Impacts Productivity + 9 Tips for Better Sleep

Sarah Mae (SMae) |
How Sleep Impacts Productivity + 9 Tips for Better Sleep

These days too many entrepreneurs are finding themselves sleep-deprived and tired. A couple of extra hours of work a day seems like a short-term sacrifice for long-term goals.

Unfortunately, far from helping you get ahead faster, this mindset is actually sabotaging your chances of becoming successful (or being around to enjoy your success).

If you’re pulling late nights in the name of building your biz, then read on to find out how sleep impacts productivity plus my 9 tips for better sleep.

Why We Need Sleep

Sleep gives your body and brain time to recover from the stresses of the day.

When you’re awake throughout the day your neural activity creates toxic proteins that build up in your brain. On the other hand, when you sleep your brain removes these toxins. When you don’t get enough sleep the toxic proteins are not flushed and the resulting build-up starts to impair your brain function. This slows your ability to process information and problem solve, zaps your creativity, and increases your stress levels and emotional reactivity.

Furthermore, after a good night’s sleep, you’re not just more productive and better at making decisions, sleep also helps your body stay healthy and ward off disease. According to the CDC, adults who get less than seven hours of sleep per night are more likely to have chronic health conditions than those who get enough sleep. So by the time your biz is successful, you may not have the health or lifespan to enjoy your success.

How Sleep Impacts Productivity

The short-term productivity gains from skipping sleep to work may seem worth the sacrifice; however, these are quickly negated by the detrimental effects of sleep deprivation. Not getting enough sleep greatly affects your mood and impairs your ability to function and be productive for days to come. Moreover, since sleep debt is cumulative, going to sleep even 30 min later than usual for a few days can quickly add up.

A lack of sleep affects the prefrontal cortex of the brain, this is the area that controls your higher function activities such as language, executive function, and creativity. Studies have found that sleep-deprivation results in over-exertion of the prefrontal cortex, which leads to decreased cognitive performance resulting in impaired memory, focus, alertness, decision making, and problem-solving, which all play an important role in achieving peak productivity. In fact, the negative effects of sleep deprivation are so great that people who are drunk outperform those lacking sleep.

According to Matthew Walker, sleep scientist and author of Why We Sleep (a great read), “Sleep is the greatest legal performance-enhancing drug that people are neglecting”.

Sleep can help you feel more focused and happy, and get along with people better. It also helps when it comes to managing your emotions and remaining calm under entrepreneurial pressure.

How Much Sleep Do You Need to Be Productive?

The National Sleep Foundation recommends an average of eight hours of sleep per night for adults. Whereas a lack of sleep is defined as six hours or less per night.

However, what most people do not realize is that this is referring to the actual amount of time you are asleep, not the amount of time that you are lying in bed trying to sleep (known as sleep opportunity).

In reality, the amount of sleep that you need is subjective. To determine if you’re getting enough sleep do this simple test: Are you tired? If so, you probably need more sleep. End of test. It really is that simple.

You can also get too much sleep, so you really need to be listening to your body and giving yourself enough sleep opportunity to get the amount of sleep that makes you feel rested and energized throughout your day.

9 Tips for Better Sleep

Hopefully, by now you see how sleep impacts productivity and are ready to commit to getting more quality sleep. Here are 9 tips to get you started…

1) Stick to a Routine

This is one of the best things you can do. A consistent bedtime and wake-up time will not only help your body prepare itself for sleep, but it’ll help it prepare for being awake also. It helps you to prioritize sleep and make sure you’re getting enough sleep opportunity.

I have an alarm that reminds me to start my winding down 60min before bed. My routine consists of putting away electronics, washing up, and reading fiction for 30min to get me ready for sleep. Whereas my morning routine gives me so much energy and balance to start my day.

Further, consistency is QUEEN when it comes to sleeping better. So I go to bed at 10:30pm and I get up at 6:30am, which gives me an 8-hour sleep opportunity.

2) Know Your Chronotype

When planning your sleep routine, it helps to know your chronotype, which is your body’s natural disposition to be awake or asleep at certain times.

Learning whether you’re a lion, bear, wolf, or dolphin will help you get the best sleep possible and be more productive as a whole. To find your chronotype and learn more about your ideal schedule, you can take this Chronoquiz developed by Dr. Michael Breus, The Sleep Doctor.

3) Be Mindful of Your Light Intake

I am purposefully listing this before anything about caffeine because overexposure to artificial “junk light” negatively impacts your sleep, energy, mood, and performance.

Here’s what to pay attention to:

  • Get at least 20-30 minutes of natural sunlight every day, preferably in the morning (NCBI).
  • Wear blue-light blocking glasses during the daytime, especially when you’re looking at screens all day.
  • Keep the lights dim in your house in the hours leading up to bedtime.
  • Use candlelight, red light bulbs, or red-tinted glasses during your wind-down routine to indicate to your brain that sleep is near and start melatonin production.
  • Use blackout curtains in your bedroom.
  • Cover the little power source lights on appliances with electrical tape.

4) Eliminate All Caffeine Starting at 2 PM

Late-afternoon caffeine can cause problems for your sleep, even if you aren’t aware of it.

This seems obvious to some people, yet there are many who maintain that a late-night espresso does not disrupt their sleep. If you’re one of those people then take note! Researchers have found that even if you don’t feel that a late-afternoon cup of coffee has a negative impact on your sleep, it is likely to be interfering nonetheless.

This is why it is recommended to stop drinking anything caffeinated at 2 p.m.

5) Schedule Downtime

This may seem counterintuitive when talking about how sleep impacts productivity. How does more downtime make you productive? If you’re not planning breaks and free time in your day, you may be “revenge bedtime procrastinating”.

According to the Sleep Foundation, “revenge bedtime procrastination” describes the decision to sacrifice sleep for leisure time that is driven by a daily schedule lacking in free time. This could look like watching late-night TV, spending time with friends, playing video games, or scrolling on social media.

If you’re guilty of sacrificing sleep for these activities, start making room for them in your day!

6) Create a Good Sleep Environment

Optimize your bedroom environment, keeping it clean and inviting for sleep. Block out any lights or noises that might keep you awake, keep the temperature comfortable for sleeping (around 18°C/65°F), and ensure your pillows, mattress, and linens are comfortable.

7) Exercise

Regular physical activity contributes to better, longer, more restful and refreshing sleep. Exercise has been shown to help you fall asleep more quickly and increase and improve the quality of deep sleep.

This 2015 study found that 150 minutes of exercise per week leads to significant reductions in the severity of insomnia, depression, and anxiety.

Try to avoid exercising within a few hours of your bedtime though, as this can make it more difficult to fall asleep.

8) Sleep Tracking

Tracking my sleep is one of the best sleep habits I have found. It can help you track your sleep patterns and identify any patterns or practices that are affecting your sleep.

There are lots of ways to do this. You can use tech like a smartwatch or Oura Ring, an app like Sleep Cycle, or you can just use an old fashion pen and paper.

Here’s what to track:

  • What time you went to bed
  • What time you fell asleep
  • How many times you woke up during the night and how long you were awake each time
  • What time you got up in the morning
  • How you feel in the morning (tired, well-rested, etc)

Your tracked sleep data is an invaluable resource to share with your doctor. Tracking my sleep helped me discover that I have sleep apnea and begin treatment.

9) Rule Out Sleep Disorders

Speaking of sleep apnea, it’s important to note that sleep disorder and disordered sleep are two different things. Sleep disorder is a formal medical diagnosis that requires assistance and treatment from a specialist. Whereas disordered sleep is a struggle to have quality sleep and wake up feeling refreshed.

If you feel you may have a sleep disorder it’s important to talk to your doctor and ask to see a sleep specialist. I had to push to see a sleep doctor after noticing that, no matter what I did to optimize my sleep, I still woke up feeling sleep-deprived and it turns out I have mild obstructive sleep apnea.

Since the typical stereotype is that people with sleep apnea are overweight, sedentary, middle-aged, loud snoring men, women are very undiagnosed. When in fact, research shows that approximately 1 in 4 women in the United States are at high risk for sleep apnea.

You should wake up feeling rested more often than not. Likewise, you should be able to stay awake while watching TV, reading a book, or sitting as a passenger in a car. If either of these are a struggle for you, I suggest doing some reading into sleep disorders and talking to your doctor.

At the End of the Day

Tired is the word most of my clients use to describe how they’re feeling. Often times this is a result of pushing late into the night trying to knock more things off their to-do list. However, sleep deprivation is a health and productivity killer.

Hopefully, you now understand how sleep impacts productivity and I’ve convinced you to commit to making sleep a priority for you and the success of your biz.

There is just no substitute for a good night’s sleep!

Rise With SMae

P.S. Are we connected on Instagram? No? Well new friend, let’s fix that now! Come hang out on my favourite social media platform. Follow for inspiration and send me a DM to let me know we’re connected.



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