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Workers need more sleep, survey says

If you have some time off from work for the holidays this week, you may want to make room in your schedule for a long winter’s nap.

That’s because, according to a recent survey of more than 1,000 office workers conducted by Philips Consumer Lifestyle and the National Sleep Foundation, more than half (56 percent) of participants reported not getting enough sleep on a regular basis.

Among other issues cited:

  • Eighty-five percent of respondents reported that a lack of sleep caused decreased productivity at work
  • Sixty-four percent said that a poor night’s sleep caused their day to start off on a low note
  • Nearly a third of workers said they’d been late to work because they’d overslept

In addition to problems at work, a variety of sources have found that chronic lack of sleep has been linked to hypertension, diabetes and obesity.

While a number of factors may contribute to lack of sleep, having a stressful job is a known trigger for insomnia. According to the NSF website, “Stress causes hyperarousal, which can upset the balance between sleep and wakefulness.”

Since more than three-in-four Americans reported being under an unhealthy amount of stress this year, and more than one-in-four reported that they’d lain awake at night in the past month, according to a recent study by the American Psychological Association, even adults who normally have healthy sleeping patterns are susceptible to disruptions if they’re stressed out at work.

Feeling like you may need more than a nap to catch up on your sleep deprivation? Try these tips to prevent stress from getting in the way of your nightly shut-eye:

1. Wind down: According to the NSF, it’s best to stop fielding work-related phone calls and e-mails at least two hours before bedtime. While watching television is acceptable, reading or listening to music is even better.  

2. Stay organized: If you lay in bed all night thinking about what you have to do in the morning, make a to-do list at the end of each day, outlining the next day’s top priorities. Getting the information out of your head and down on paper where you can see it will make the tasks seem more manageable. Organizing your schedule into a calendar will also help, since you won’t have to worry about forgetting meetings, birthdays and appointments.

3. Exercise: According to the Mayo Clinic, working out during the day can provide twofold benefits around bedtime. First, the added activity may make you more tired, and thus help you fall asleep faster, plus exercise promotes relaxation and reduced stress levels. Just be sure to exercise in the morning or early evening, since you’ll have an increased energy level for a few hours post-workout – which is great during the day, but not right before bed.   

4. Watch what you eat (and drink): Clearly, downing a cup coffee or tea (that’s not decaf) before bed is not a good idea if you’re having trouble sleeping, but caffeine can appear in unexpected places, preventing you from falling asleep. Consider this: A serving of Hershey’s dark chocolate contains 31 mg of caffeine, almost as much as a cup of tea (about 50 mg) or a 1 oz. shot of espresso (about 40 mg). Additionally, limiting liquid intake at night will prevent midnight bathroom trips.

5. See a doctor: Insomnia can spurn a vicious cycle. You can’t fall asleep, so you’re tired at work, which means you can’t get as much done, so you get behind, which causes stress, etc. If you think your insomnia is getting out of control, or if it persists for more than a few days, the NSF recommends seeing a professional.

For more on stress and work, see:

Are you overworked?

A trying economy means healthier habits for some workers

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