10 steps to sleep better for a productive day

Getting enough sleep is essential to your physical well-being and mental health. It also plays an important part in your daily functioning and work performance, just like exercise and eating well.

Why is sleep important?

Getting a good night’s sleep does more than you might think. Sure, it keeps you from feeling sluggish during the day, but did you know that sleep also has the following benefits?

  • Decreases your risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other chronic health conditions
  • Strengthens your immune system
  • Reduces food cravings, overeating and the risk of obesity
  • Sharpens your ability to concentrate on routine tasks like driving and focus at work

How much sleep do I need?

The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours of sleep per day for adults.* For many of us, the pace of life makes this target unreasonable. Even if we have the right amount of time to devote to some solid ZZZs, winding down, falling and staying asleep can be challenging.

Here are some simple changes you can make to your daily routine to improve your sleep patterns, so you can stay motivated and mentally fresh.

During the day

  • Get up and move
    Thirty minutes of exercise three times a week can help you sleep better. Go for a walk or run over your lunch. If your workplace has fitness facilities, take a class or participate in a wellness activity.
  • Grab a nap
    Snoozing can improve alertness, learning and problem solving, while reducing fatigue and stress.
  • Cut out (or limit) caffeine
    Avoid products with caffeine (coffee, tea, soft drinks, chocolate, some pain medications) that can keep you awake, especially later in the day.
  • Get some daylight
    Your body needs natural light exposure during the day to help regulate the sleep-wake cycle. If your office is windowless or you don’t sit near a window, consider using a light therapy box at your desk to simulate sunshine.
  • Snack healthy
    Although sugary snacks and foods high in saturated fat can provide a quick afternoon boost, they’re also linked to poor sleep quality. Good choices include protein like cheese or nuts, or complex carbohydrates like fruit or a bran muffin.

Do you work night shifts? Here are some helpful strategies for those with nocturnal routines.

Before bed

  • Create a routine
    Stick to the same routine each night – even if it’s short. Keeping your pre-bed activities (showering, brushing teeth, reading) in the same order each night can help regulate your body clock and subconsciously prepare you for sleep.
  • Keep work away from your bedroom
    Before bed, it may be tempting to catch up on your work emails or tasks. This can elevate stress levels and make it difficult to fall asleep. If this becomes a routine, you may begin to associate your bedroom with work stress, instead of the relaxing environment it should be.
  • Avoid screen time
    Blue light that comes from television, laptop and smartphone screens suppresses melatonin – the hormone that helps us sleep. Stop using these devices 30 to 60 minutes before bed. Instead, unwind with a book or magazine.
  • Make your room dark
    Even a small amount of light can inhibit our ability to get a restful sleep. Use blackout curtains to shut out illumination from street lights and cars. Make sure digital displays from electronics like clocks, TV receivers and phones, are off or not visible.
  • Skip the weekend sleep in
    As much as possible, stick to your regular schedule on days off. Sleeping in makes it more difficult to fall asleep the next night. Try to limit any sleep ins to no more than an hour difference from your normal wake time.

*Adults 65 and up require between seven and eight hours of sleep per day.