Hack Your Sleep: How to Sleep Better When You're Busy

When you overload yourself with numerous work projects to get promoted or to complete a monthly goal, the last thing you'd think of is getting enough sleep. Eventually, poring over work documents and reflecting on complicated issues until 3 am turns into your habit. Such a lifestyle makes you sleep-deprived and grumpy daily.

But you're not the only one who feels that way — 36% of busy achievers aren't having enough sleep. They doze off at their workplaces, feel sleepy in meetings, and experience all the drawbacks of poor sleep for their productivity. In our article, we'll find a way to hack your sleep and learn how to sleep better, even with the busiest schedule.

Why is getting enough sleep crucial?

Most people think sleep's primary purpose is to restore energy supplies. Thus, they reduce the sleep duration to six or even five hours instead of eight recommended, thinking that's more than enough. However, your body performs many functions when you sleep, and lack of sleep may disrupt its chemical reactions and your wellbeing. Primarily, sleep has such functions in promoting a healthy and productive life:

A woman napping on the sofa

Sleep promotes healthy metabolism

There's a common belief that when you fall asleep, your body freezes, waiting for your awakening. But that's not true — and the most revealing refutation is that sleep duration affects your metabolism. When we rest, our body produces hormones responsible for inducing feelings of hunger and satiety.

When you don't get enough sleep, you'll wake up hungry as a bear, and it will be hard for you to become full. Therefore, it may lead to obesity and gastrointestinal disorders — for example, there's a strong connection between children's insomnia and future obesity. Another study shows that sleep-deprived people choose more high-calorie dishes and foods, which leads them to obesity later.

Sleep restores energy supplies

It's a well-known fact that when you're resting, the body recovers its energy stores. Everything happens on a chemical level: your brain stores glycogen to produce energy. Its amount decreases after waking up and restores during sleep. Thus, when you don't sleep enough, the body lacks glycogen and can't produce enough energy for you to stay active.

Meanwhile, your organs, tissues, and muscles calm down, restoring their abilities for an upcoming day. Heart rate and blood pressure decrease, allowing your heart to ease off from a hard day's work. Besides, sleep helps release proteins to build new tissues and soothe aching muscles. That's why you get up renewed and so energetic after a decent sleep.

Sleep clears the mind and boosts learning skills

When you have a lot on your plate, tight sleep will assist you in eliminating tension and obsessive thoughts. Boston University study has proven that cerebrospinal fluid — a brain liquid — pulses during sleep, flushing away all brain waste. It helps to defend your brain cells from destruction, prevent memory declines and toxic proteins from appearing.

A woman sleeping after studying

Furthermore, during sleep, your brain prioritizes memories. As for Swansea University's research, you keep the crucial knowledge fresh in your memory by sleeping enough. Study results have proven people who slept after learning a new language memorized more words and pertained more information.

Sleep strengthens the body's defense mechanisms

Before taking vitamins and complaining to your physician about poor immunity, make sure you get enough sleep since it's vital for your body's defense mechanisms. When you're resting, your immunity releases cytokines — defending proteins, which fight inflammation and infections.

After a good night's sleep, your body shows a more efficient response to vaccines, prevents allergies, and fastens recovery processes. Plus, by letting your body rest, you release vital energy to protect yourself from diseases and cell destruction.

Sleep may help maintain your heart health

Resting at night is beneficial not just to your energy levels. When you fall asleep, all your inner processes slow down, including the work of organs. For example, sleep is the only chance for your heart to get a rest after a long day of pushing blood into your veins. Study shows that lack of sleep and short sleep duration may increase the risks of getting heart disease. Poor sleep quality also leads to higher blood pressure. So maintaining a decent sleep routine is essential if you want to keep your heart healthy.

Sleep relieves depression symptoms

Insomnia is the most widespread depression symptom, occurring in 75% of depressed patients. On the rapid eye movement sleep stage, your body maintains emotional health. At this stage, while you're dreaming, your brain handles new facts and recent events, gets over the grief, or even helps you to make complicated decisions.

A girl with a cup of tea and a pillow

Tips for hacking your sleep

Before we dive into the tips, let's take a peek at statistics. Survey says we spend 26 years sleeping, which is a third of our whole lifespan. But what's more surprising, the average person loses five years of life trying to fall asleep. Imagine five years just tossing and turning! Our simple tips will show you how to fall asleep faster and save these years on things that matter.

Build a bedtime routine and stick to it

Your body functions according to a circadian rhythm — a 24-hour cycle that regulates your sleep-wake regimen. These internal clocks are connected to your brain, sending signals to sleep and wake up. According to the research, sleep regularity increases your daytime energy, reduces your cardiovascular disease risks, and boosts your motivation.

When you have set hours for sleeping, you will manage to restore more power and fall asleep faster. Align your sleep to daily routines, leaving more for taking zzz's and less for minor tasks like watching TV at night or scrolling your Facebook feed in the morning. If you have seven hours of sleep, you can go to bed at around 11 pm with some time to toss and turn and wake up at 6 am, energized and ready for another productive day.

Stick to this schedule even on weekends — in case of sudden parties, deviate from your regime by no more than an hour if you don't want to face insomnia later.

A man sleeping on the books

Take short naps

Napping is definitely an outstanding way to power up a bit during a hard day. Still, it has certain productivity and energy traps. If you're used to napping, make sure you limit it to 30 minutes, as a longer nap may interfere with your night sleep and cause insomnia. Plus, avoid napping after 3 pm since it will make you too energized in the afternoon.

However, nothing holds you back from taking good daytime naps. It makes you less stressed and frustrated, allowing you to show better results when performing cognitive tasks. The best time to nap is between 12 and 2 pm — you'll revitalize your body and brain with no negative impact on nighttime sleep.

Try melatonin supplements

When you try different approaches and still can't fix your sleep regimes, turn to supplements. Melatonin is among the most effective ones for helping you fall asleep. The survey showed that taking melatonin supplements two hours before going to bed can make you nod off faster and sleep tighter. So you can consume it if you have sleep disturbance or can't fall asleep because of anxiety or stress.

Besides, if you're struggling with insomnia, melatonin is also an excellent solution - it may fix your circadian rhythms when they're all messed up. And if your work routine includes frequent flights and business trips, this hormone is a proven remedy for jet lag.

Turn your bedroom into a sleep sanctuary

If the bedroom also plays the role of your dining room, office, and living room, you may find it hard to fall asleep at night. There are so many things around distracting you and reminding you about work issues.

As for researchers, a comfortable and sleep-optimized bedroom increases the quality of your sleep. The too cold or hot temperature may interfere with your sleep. Simultaneously, an uncomfortable mattress or pillow can lead to pain and back pain in the morning.

Remove all work-connected things like laptops, documents, or professional books from your bedroom — make it clean and calming. You may hang a beautiful landscape in front of your bed, change the linens to your liking, and regulate the temperature. The study says 67 F or 19 C is an optimal temperature for sleeping. Plus, choose the mattress and pillow up to your preference, since some people like hard mattresses and others like softer ones.

A cozy bedroom to sleep better

Watch your drinks

Your body loses almost 1,5 pounds of water during sleep, so hydrating is crucial for your body's functioning. But is it beneficial to drink right before bedtime? Too much water right before falling asleep can cause nocturia — a sleep disorder when you wake up numerous times at night.

And drinking alcohol before sleeping has even worse effects. Due to the higher heart rate and dizziness, you'll find it harder to fall asleep. Another drink that may interfere with your sleep is coffee. If you drink it right before your bedtime, it may cause insomnia and disrupt your sleeping regimen.

Distribute your drinks to quench your thirst at least an hour before bedtime, and go to the bathroom before falling asleep. You can also put a cup of water on your bedside table to rehydrate yourself in the morning. Plus, don't forget to avoid drinking alcohol and coffee late in the evening.

Manage your exposure to light

Another essential thing that influences your sleep-wake cycle is light. When you see bright lights or walking under the sun's rays, your brain perceives it as a signal to produce the energy hormone cortisol. And when you're surrounded by darkness, your body forms the sleep hormone melatonin that prepares your body for rest. Thus, if you spend your day in a dark place, it can make you sleepy and dizzy, while bright light in your room in the late afternoon may disrupt your melatonin production.

A bed with three pillows and cozy light around

Surround yourself with light during the day — open the curtains, spend more time under the sun, turn on the lights on a gloomy day. In turn, when the night comes, dim your bedroom lights, and spend less time in front of your TV.

Studies show that checking your smartphone before going to bed disrupts your sleep patterns as well as a coffee cup. So put aside your phone at least one hour before going to sleep to increase your sleep quality.

Relax before going to bed

Anxiety and stress are among the top reasons you can’t fall asleep or wake up numerous times during the night. It happens because your head is overloaded with thoughts that increase cortisol levels in your blood. Cortisol makes you energized, increases your heart rate, and disrupts your melatonin production. So developing a pre-bed relaxing ritual may help!

You can take a warm bath before bed to relax your muscles and prepare for adequate sleep. Drinking herbal tea and reading a book may also help you wind down and get enough zzz’s.

Move more throughout the day

Another thing that can help you fall asleep faster is moderate activity during your day. Sitting in your office doesn't count! The University of Georgia study says just a 30-minute moderate exercise can reduce your pre-sleep anxiety and relieve insomnia symptoms. Meanwhile, vigorous workouts like weight lifting or long-distance running may even disrupt your sleep, causing excessive production of cortisol.

There's no need to visit the gym or to overstrain yourself with dumbbells. Walk a bit around your neighborhood after work or go bicycling for half an hour — that would be enough activity for you to sleep like a baby at night.