It’s 11pm on Sunday and you’ve got to get up at eight for work. Your favorite movie just started, and you’ve got a decision to make. You choose the movie over sleep and struggle through the next day.
The fact of the matter is, we’ve all been there. We’ve all chosen to stay up later than we should or had a sleepless night that made work more difficult the next day. So, what’s the big deal?
Well, a 2015 study of more 21,000 men and women in the UK — performed by RAND Europe in conjunction with Cambridge University — found that sleep deprivation is the number one factor in decreased productivity in the office. When analyzed using multivariate regressions, the survey data showed that sleep impacted productivity levels more than things like alcohol consumption, exercise levels, stress levels, and even obesity.
Researchers also found individuals who slept six or fewer hours per night were notably less productive than those who slept seven or more. But it’s not always easy to get the optimal seven hours or more, is it?
In many cases, our personalities can keep us from getting the rest we need. Whether you’re an Extravert who can’t fall asleep because lying in bed is too boring, or you’re an Introvert who can’t turn off the introspective side of your brain, falling asleep can be a battle.
Here are four tips to combat some of the more popular personality-based sleep problems:
1. Mindfulness/meditation exercises.
Who it helps: Extraverts and those with high levels of neuroticism
Mindfulness and meditation exercises before bed can be great ways to slow down your brain and relax. These exercises encourage you to control your breathing and focus on different aspects of your daily life. They typically require you to focus on acknowledging the things that are causing you stress and talk you through setting them aside.
Because of their soothing nature, they are great tools for Extraverts who may struggle with lying still in bed and for individuals with high levels of neuroticism, the Big Five personality trait associated with increased anxiety and stress. By slowing down and focusing on the guided exercises, Extraverts and highly neurotic individuals can turn their brains off and focus on getting the sleep they need.
2. Create a bedtime routine.
Who it helps: Individuals low in conscientiousness and neurotic individuals.
When you shoot from the hip regarding bedtime, you risk lying in bed staring at the ceiling trying to count sheep.
Individuals with low levels of conscientiousness — the Big Five personality trait associated with self-discipline, organization, and an affinity for structure — are more susceptible to this than anyone. Since they are more comfortable acting on impulse and “rolling with the punches,” they’re more likely to go to bed at different times every night which keeps the body from knowing when the right time for sleep is.
Sleep routines that combine similar activities leading to sleep, and going to bed at the same time every night are a great way for these individuals to manage their body’s sleep rhythms. Additionally, having to focus on a routine before bed will help neurotic individuals focus their energy on the tasks at hand, rather than the anxiety they may be feeling before bed.
While it may be difficult at first, the structure of the sleep routine will keep both personality types from choosing to watch one last movie or reading one more chapter before going to bed — the famous last words that lead to a sluggish day at work.
3. Writing your thoughts down.
Who it helps: Introverts and conscientious individuals
When you can’t stop thinking, you can’t start sleeping. Writing down your thoughts in a journal or notebook before bed can help you get them out of your head long enough for you to sleep.
For conscientious individuals, who thrive on planning and structure, this is a perfect opportunity to schedule your next day and get your to-do list out of your head. For Introverts who enjoy quiet environments and tend to be very introspective, it’s an opportunity to write down your thoughts and expound on them before bed, rather than while you’re in bed.
The keys here are giving yourself plenty of time and using your writing as a type of meditation. Pause, think about the things that will keep you awake or the things causing you stress, and put down your thoughts about them. If you find that once you’ve done so you’re still coming back to those things, turn on a light and write more until your mind is clear.
4. Cut screen time at least 30 minutes before bed.
Who it helps: Everyone
One of the biggest ways to help yourself fall asleep faster is to turn the screens off and let your brain relax. There has been a plethora of data showing the blue light emitted from today’s technology harms our circadian sleep rhythms.
Turn off the screens at least 30 minutes before bed, for the best chance at a good night’s sleep. Instead of reading on your iPad or Kindle, pick up a real book or magazine to help lull you into dreamland. Whether it’s reading online, watching TV, chatting on Facebook, or surfing your Twitter feed, screens before bed can keep you from getting the sleep you need.
What strategies help you get to sleep at night?
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Molly Owens is the CEO of Truity, and developer of the TypeFinder® personality type assessment that connects people with powerful insights about their strengths, talents, and traits.