I never understood insomnia and the devastating effect the lack of sleep could have on our lives until I experienced it myself. No longer do I joke that “I was going to have insomnia but I slept right through it” because that is not funny at all. The importance of getting a good night’s sleep is crucial to our success.
We are able to concentrate and focus when our minds are rested. This means more than just getting a good night’s sleep (although that is important). There are two types of distractions that affect our state of mind and our ability to be productive: External and Internal.
External distractions are things like loud music, sudden noises, a radio program, a television program, vehicle noises in the parking lot, children laughing in the backyard, the weather, and all things outside of ourselves that catch our attention. Our minds are no longer rested when we fight against these distractions or when we continuously go back and forth from our work to the distraction. It is much easier to combat these external distractions and gain better concentration and focus when we are well rested physically.
Internal distractions get us off track by thoughts in our own heads. And usually, this is because our brain is tired. If you have set aside a block of time to complete a number of tasks that require a lot of “thinking”, chances are good you found it difficult to concentrate after some time had passed. Just as our arm and leg muscles get tired from overuse, so does our brain. This type of distraction is more difficult to gain control over, but it can be done. It just takes practice. To get a mental reset so you are more productive throughout the day, here are a few tactics that have been proven to work:
- Set a timer. Before you begin the work, set a timer for one hour so that you can get the work done and then leave your computer or desk and take a break when the timer goes off. During that break, walk around the office, drink some water, stretch, and relax. This will refresh your mind and your body and ready to concentrate when you return to your work.
- Practice meditation. Count your breaths 1 through 10 (inhale, one, exhale, two, inhale, three and so on) and then start over when you get to 10. Every time you realize that you’ve been distracted, bring your attention back to the breath. It is difficult to do consistently without getting distracted, but it will get easier the more you do it.
- Imagine yourself relaxed and rested. Take a couple of deep breaths and stretch. Focus your attention on your body and how relaxed it is. With a bit practice, you will experience your mind getting focused and the distractions are gone.
- This too shall pass. Respond to the distracting thought as something that is there and then gone. Remind yourself that any thought that stays must pass eventually and by simply saying “This too shall pass” you are encouraging that distraction to move on.
A rested mind makes it easier to focus and resist distractions in our everyday lives. Let’s cover some issues caused by lack of sleep and how resting your mind and getting plenty of sleep is beneficial to you.
The Importance of Getting a Good Night’s Sleep and the Impact on Your Mind
Getting the right amount of sleep means your mind is alert and you are able to make better decisions and be more productive throughout the day. Lack of sleep affects your judgment, your work performance, your mood, and your safety. It prevents you from thinking clearly, keeping your emotions on an even keel, and completing the tasks you need to get done.
While there is no specific number of hours of sleep that works for everyone, there is a number that will work for you. And when you are not getting enough sleep, you can feel “foggy”. Here are three reasons why that fogginess happens:
- Lack of sleep slows down your thought processes.Sleep deprivation leads to lower alertness and concentration. It is more difficult to focus and pay attention, so you are more easily confused. It also impairs judgment. Making decisions is more difficult because you can’t assess situations as well and pick the right behavior.
- Lack of sleep impairs memory.When you are sleepy, you may forget and misplace things. The inability to focus and concentrate caused by sleepiness further weakens memory.
- Lack of sleep makes learning difficult. Because you cannot focus as well, it is more difficult to pick up information, so you cannot learn efficiently. It also affects memory, which is essential to learning.
In a 2009 study done with cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point, researchers from the University of Texas in Austin found that sleep deprivation hampered information-integration. This is a function of the mind that relies heavily on split-second, gut-feeling decisions. Slowed reaction time resulted in bad decisions being made and the inability to avoid accidents and injury.
A good night’s sleep is when you awaken alert and ready to face the day with enough energy to get you to breakfast, then lunch, then dinner. Your mind is alert. You can recall memories, facts, information, names, and instances quickly. You are able to understand a problem and think of a solution with confidence. You communicate clearly with others, whether with text or email or verbally. You have a sense of control over your ability to concentrate and focus on what is in front of you. And, you are able to learn something new and retain it for use on another day. Ultimately, good sleep gives you a good mind to work with and results in you being more productive each day.
The Importance of Getting a Good Night’s Sleep for Productivity
Getting the proper amount of sleep each night results in you being more alert and productive each day. Just look at the ways that getting enough sleep can improve your performance.
When you are sleep deprived, feeling groggy, or feeling sluggish, it is much more difficult to refocus on a task after a disruption. Imagine being interrupted by loud music or shouting from the street, leaving your task to investigate, then coming back and trying to refocus. If you are sleep deprived, it takes more time to refocus your attention, and even then, you are more likely to not be truly focused and alert. Whereas when you are rested and alert, you can easily return to your task at hand and get your mind on the work that needs to be done.
Lack of sleep, usually less than six hours each night for the average adult, is one of the best predictors of job burnout. If you are forcing yourself to work each day on less sleep than you need to be at your best, it will catch up to you in the form of physical, emotional or mental exhaustion. And soon you will doubt your competence and the value of your work. Whereas when you do get your optimal amount of sleep each night, over the same amount of time you will be increasing your confidence in your ability to do good work because you will have been consistently producing work that you are proud of.
When you have slept well, you improve your ability to make accurate and fast decisions by 4%. This may not sound like much, but every little bit helps! And if you continue to sleep well and make better decisions, it will result in work that you are confident is your best work.
Over more than a century of research has established the fact that sleep is a factor in memory. Sleep actually triggers changes in the brain that solidify memories—strengthening connections between brain cells and transferring information from one brain region to another. This means that getting enough rest is key to retaining what you have learned during the day. It also means that you are better able to process what you have learned, resulting in better recall and the ability to use what you learned during the days ahead.
Drowsy driving results in missing stop signs. Lack of sleep means you cannot think quickly and respond slower to disruption. This means you cannot process outside distractions well enough to avoid injury or making mistakes. Get enough rest and you are less likely to make these mistakes or miss a stop sign while driving. You will be able to respond quickly and accurately to disruption.
Clearly, there is a connection between sleep and productivity. Being aware of this you can now focus on improving your sleep habits and becoming more productive. The importance of getting a good night’s sleep cannot be emphasized enough.
I’m author, publisher, and entrepreneur Connie Ragen Green and would love to connect with you. If you’re new to the world of online entrepreneurship please check out my training on how to sell yourself at Sell Yourself and Your Stuff and learn how to gain an unfair advantage when it comes to building a lucrative online business.