You know you do better at work, sports, and even leisure activities, after a good night’s sleep. The same holds true for any consensus-seeking, or otherwise important, conversation. Good communication skills require concentration, and sleep enables brainpower.
Moreover, “sleep on it” is not just a metaphor. When you are undecided about how to handle a situation, your unconscious can work on it while you snooze. I try to wake up before I have to get up. I stay in bed and let my thoughts wander. I often find I do my most productive and creative thinking at this time and get breakthrough ideas for solving problems I went to bed with. In fact, some experts recommend that you concentrate on the puzzler shortly before nodding off.
Here are a few more facts and tips about good sleep. You’ve probably heard some of them, but I bet you’ll find a few surprises here.
- Either anxiety or positive excitement about a meeting coming up tomorrow can make it hard to get to sleep. Meditation can help, but not if you wait till bedtime to meditate. Take a meditation break in the afternoon if you can. Otherwise do it as soon as possible after work. Then, a second meditation at bedtime can bolster the effect.
- The type of light emitted by TV, computer and other electronic screens tends to keep us awake. So if you anticipate trouble getting to sleep, don’t watch or read screens in the last couple of hours before bed. Reading is fine if you read from a print book or magazine, not an electronic reader.
- Recent studies show that, on average, men snore more than women, but women are lighter sleepers—bad combination. A sleep researcher in the UK found that, when one bed partner moves, there is a 33% chance that the other partner’s sleep will be disturbed. He recommends one bed for sex and two for sleeping. If you think this isn’t romantic enough or says something negative about your marriage consider this: women’s sleep quality seems to predict the level of happiness in a marriage. Unlike men, women in a study rated their interactions more negatively after a poor night’s sleep.
- A bedtime routine also helps. If you always turn down the bed, don your PJs, brush your teeth, then read a chapter of your current novel, in that order, before turning out the light, your body will come to associate that routine with sleep, and will start to relax when you turn down the bed.
- Protein promotes mental activity, whereas carbohydrates promote sleep. Try to eat your highest meals, especially any meat or fish, early in the day. For supper and evening snacks, emphasize complex carbs, such as succotash or pasta with a little grated cheese.
- Naptime can be good business. Even a short nap, say 25 minutes, can boost creativity and other cognitive functions, functions important to communicating effectively and creating win-win solutions. Google now provides nap “pods” for employees.
I’d love to hear from any of you who have stories about how you awoke with creative thoughts or performed better after quality sleep. Meanwhile, sweet dreams!