The average person will spend at least 20 years of their life asleep, but that’s only if you’re getting enough sleep and lots of us are not. According to the American Sleep Association, one in three people will deal with a sleep disorder at some point in their lives. And while there are many things that can negatively impact sleep quality, there’s one surprising thing that can sabotage our sleep, too: our jobs.
“What you do during the day and at work can really affect how well you sleep at night, and how you feel waking up the next morning,” explains sleep medicine specialist Dr. Rachel Salas. And Dr. Ilene Rosen, who studies sleep, points out that poor sleep can affect work performance as well, leaving you “crankier and less productive.”
These sleep experts share three ways our work lives are killing our sleep quality and how to wake up more refreshed and happier instead:
- Drinking caffeine late in the afternoon - Sure, that fourth cup of coffee can give you the pick-me-up you need at 3pm, but you’ll probably be paying the price later on. That alert and awake feeling it gives you can linger for four hours or longer, which may make it harder to wind down before bed. The sleep pros recommend cutting caffeine by 4pm and sipping sparkling water or juice in the afternoon and taking a brisk walk outside to perk up.
- Logging longer hours - Working later means less time in the evening for activities that help you sleep, or having to do them later. For example, exercising later in the evening can mess with your sleep because cardio raises your core body temperature for an hour or two after a workout, interfering with the body’s natural “cooling off” process that helps us fall asleep. Eating a heavy meal or drinking alcohol within two hours of bedtime can also disrupt sleep.
- “Catching up” on sleep over the weekend - Lots of us sleep in on Saturday and Sunday to make up for our loss of sleep during the busy work week, but the sleep experts say for sleep quality it’s better to stick to a consistent sleep schedule. You still want to aim for eight hours and pay attention to how you’re sleeping to help reduce anxiety, boost productivity and improve focus.