Sleep-Promoting Lessons Sleep-Promoting Lessons

Sleep-Promoting Lessons

From Productive Professionals

When there’s a new, groundbreaking app to be developed or a best-seller novel to be written, the sentence ”I’ll sleep when I die” often echoes in our heads. Not to burst every overachiever’s bubble, but everyone isn’t cut out to survive on three hours of sleep. In fact, scientists estimate that short sleepers make up only 1 to 3 percent of the population. The cause? A genetic mutation. Those of us who didn’t win the genetic lottery, we jeopardize not only our success but also our health when we short sleep.

So how does someone who isn’t Tom Ford, who’s said to grab three hours, succeed in a demanding work environment? We found the secret sauce to success for the non sleepless majority.

1. They get the right amount of sleep

Aside from being leaders in their respective fields, Arianna Huffington, Jeff Bezos and The Dalai Lama have one other thing in common. They clock eight hours of slumber. Though what’s considered a good night’s sleep may be personal, most of us need seven to nine hours to feel well-rested. Those hours are the secret to a successful career and a long life to enjoy the benefits of said career.

According to Fortune, a study showed that adults age 45 and older who get less than six hours of sleep are 200 percent more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke. However, the effects of a short shut-eye aren’t packaged in a heart attack that arrives on your 45th birthday. They can rear their ugly heads the next day.

Anna Askri, a project sourcing manager at Scania Group, knows this all to well. She tries to get her eight hours but when she misses a few hours, she doesn't feel well and finds that it’s harder to perform well at work. Askri’s observation is consistent with most studies. Sleep deprivation can result in memory loss, cognitive delays and irritability — creating road blocks in our path toward success while damaging relationships we hold dear.

2. They’re conservative with their time

Danielle Prescod, style director at BET, is strict with her hours and attributes her well-being to her sleep habit. Despite working in a demanding industry with tight deadlines and holding a title that requires her to alter her lifestyle often, she always prioritizes herself and is conservative with her time.

“I’ve drastically reduced my schedule and don’t go to everything anymore,” she says about fashion week. Before Prescod cut back on the number of events she attended, fashion week would wreak havoc on her normal routine. She couldn’t work out as usual — which is twice a day sometimes — and she would stay up late to answer work-related and/or personal emails after the late-night events. For Prescod, who averages 8 hours and 52 minutes of sleep a night, fashion week is disruptive.

“It’s just such an interruption,” she says and admits that although she’s not going to all the events anymore, she still “haven’t figured out a hack” to maintaining her lifestyle 100 percent during fashion week.

Askri, who travels a lot for work is also conservative with her time. When meeting clients overseas, her days tend to be long and clients often expect her to attend after-work activities. Despite being tempted to do everything on the schedule, she usually politely declines so she can maintain her sleep routine as much as possible. But just like Prescod, she admits that it’s difficult to sustain her routine 100 percent. But she makes up for it, by prioritizing self-care and forgoing socializing with friends the days after her work trip.
“Sometimes, you just have to sacrifice certain things to feel good,” she says.

“You don't even realize how much Instagram is stopping you from living your life. I went to bed and fell asleep easier. I woke up, and I was ready in less than an hour because I wasn't spending time looking at my phone. I wasn't, you know, distracted.”

— Danielle Prescod on quitting Instagram

Scheduling your dinner three hours before bedtime sets you up for a good night's sleep. However, that doesn't mean you should sleep with a grumbling tummy. If you're hungry minutes before you lay your head to rest, eat something high in good fats. A spoonful, or two, of peanut butter is a healthy bedtime snack.

Scheduling your dinner three hours before bedtime sets you up for a good night's sleep. However, that doesn't mean you should sleep with a grumbling tummy. If you're hungry minutes before you lay your head to rest, eat something high in good fats. A spoonful, or two, of peanut butter is a healthy bedtime snack.

3. They eat healthy

Though most of us know to lock sleep thieves such as coffee away after lunch time, the dietary secret to a good night’s sleep goes far beyond ditching coffee and opting for a nightly cup of warm milk. A dinner high in saturated fats, which is found in red meat and cheese, slows down the digestive process which can mess up your circadian rhythm.

Askri has recently stopped eating dairy products, switching to vegan milk and yoghurt and skipping cheese all together. She also keeps her dinners light and avoids eating past 7 p.m.

“I definitely notice a change in how I sleep,” Askri says. “When I eat something heavy like meat for dinner, I feel bloated and heavy, and it’s harder for me to fall asleep.”

Prescod takes her diet very seriously as well. She has been working with Dr. Charles Passler, a nutritionist who works with Victoria’s Secret models, for the past four years. Before she met Dr. Passler, Prescod used to eat whatever food was available on the set of photoshoots and would sometimes survive on one meal a day.

“I didn't have time to really contemplate it because I was just so busy,” she says. “I never considered that the food I was eating was making me feel bad.”

Since meeting her nutritionist, she has stopped drinking alcohol and takes her bedtime seriously because her nutritionist is “big on sleep.”

“It's the healthiest thing to do, making that [sleep and diet] a priority,” Prescod says.

Anna Askri works out at least five to six times a week and notices that she doesn't get the same quality of sleep when she skips a day at the gym. She prefers classes such as spinning and Les Mills BODYPUMP®, but even if the classes are full, she'll still hit the gym to break a sweat.

Anna Askri works out at least five to six times a week and notices that she doesn't get the same quality of sleep when she skips a day at the gym. She prefers classes such as spinning and Les Mills BODYPUMP®, but even if the classes are full, she'll still hit the gym to break a sweat.

Danielle Prescod, who tracks her sleep and averages 8 hours and 52 minutes a night, strongly believes that an all-around healthy lifestyle is the only way to a succesful life. She has given up many vices, alcohol and shopping to name a couple, that affect her health mentally and physically.

Danielle Prescod, who tracks her sleep and averages 8 hours and 52 minutes a night, strongly believes that an all-around healthy lifestyle is the only way to a succesful life. She has given up many vices, alcohol and shopping to name a couple, that affect her health mentally and physically.

4. They have a fixed bedtime

According to multiple studies, Prescod’s and Askri’s efforts to retain the same sleep and wake time is sagacious. Our sleep is tied to our circadian rhythm and changing our sleep and wake time diminishes the quality of our sleep. This results in not only mediocre performance but also poor health. Dr Robert Oexman, director of the Sleep to Live Institute, told Bustle that an irregular sleep schedule is associated with lower immune system and higher risk of chronic disease. The upshot? A shorter life expectancy.

Prescod has noticed this first hand since she began enjoying a well-balanced life. She says she used to be “permanently sick” before she made a lifestyle change.

“I used to have a cold all winter, and it didn't even occur to me that it’s because I'm not sleeping in a regular way, that I'm eating junk, or because I'm having too much wine that my immune system cannot catch up,” she says. “Now, I never get sick anymore.”

5. They exercise frequently

You might want to dig up your jogging shoes from the back of your closet if you’re having trouble sleeping. Helena Kubicek Boye, sleep expert and author of “Konsten att Sova,” recommends hour-long, low-intensity exercises, because of how it improves the quality of our slumber. Unfortunately, the connection between exercise and sleep is lost on most. In the U.S., about 1 in 4 short sleeper reported to be physically inactive, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

“Because I make that time for myself, rarely do I have an issue with falling asleep.”

— Taylor Burke on exercise


Taylor Burke, a senior account executive at Allison + Partners, along with Prescod and Askri, belong to those who’ve figured out how exercise boosts sleep quality. They all maintain a workout schedule and find that working out helps with stress management and improves their quality of sleep. Askri even says she notices the deterioration of her sleep quality when she skips a workout session.

For Burke who works in a fast-paced environment with tight deadlines, her physical and mental well-being is fostered at work. Allison + Partners, which has been named best work place in 2017, does so through their “Workout Wednesdays” program, an extended lunch hour that encourages employees to exercise, she says.

“I try to work out every other day,” Burke says. “Because I make that time for myself, rarely do I have an issue with falling asleep.”

Helena Kubicek says that we don't necessarily sleep better because we're using a night filter on our phones. Our sleep can be disrupted by the perfectly curated posts we see or the news we read that keep us worked up all night.

Helena Kubicek says that we don't necessarily sleep better because we're using a night filter on our phones. Our sleep can be disrupted by the perfectly curated posts we see or the news we read that keep us worked up all night.

6. They shut off their devices before bedtime

Scrolling though our phones hoping to lull ourselves to sleep is probably the most counterintuitive action there is. It’s common knowledge that the blue light emitted from those devices disrupt our sleep which is why Askri, Burke and Prescod all avoid their phones hours before bedtime. In fact, both Askri and Prescod restrict their phones’ functions. Askri sets her phone on flight mode at 8 p.m., while Prescod turns off access to all her apps, except for her Uber, text and email apps, at 10:30 p.m.

However, it’s not just the blue light that messes with our shut-eye, so does the highly curated feed we scroll through. Dr. Tim Bono, author of “When Likes Aren’t Enough,” explains in Healthista that “getting worked up with anxiety or envy from what we see on social media keeps the brain on high alert, preventing us from falling asleep.”

Prescod, who is a self-proclaimed "chronic oversharer" on Instagram and uses social media for work, knows about the stress associated with social media. In an article she penned for Harper’s Bazaar about her Instagram detox, she writes that the daily reminder of her peers living the life that she didn’t made Instagram “a source of stress.” So, she quit it for Lent. No Instagram for 43 days.

The week leading up to her Insta-ban, she spent 19.8 hours on the app. That’s almost an entire day! But, since Instagram was the only vice in her life, the Insta-ban was a natural step toward a rewarding lifestyle.

Prescod’s Instagram detox, she writes, changed her life in the most positive way. She connected with friends in a meaningful and individual way rather than through group DMs. And she even finished reading four books in the 39 out of 43 days of her detox — a detox she’s doing again this Lent.

“Everything was more efficient,” she says enthusiastically. “You don't even realize how much Instagram is stopping you from living your life. I went to bed and fell asleep easier. I woke up, and I was ready in less than an hour because I wasn't spending time looking at my phone. I wasn't, you know, distracted.”

Your bedtime routine should include calming activities such as taking a bath a few hours before, reading a book or listening to soothing music. Any activities you choose to engage in before slumber time shouldn't stimulate your brain too much and preferably aid in lowering your body temperature.

Your bedtime routine should include calming activities such as taking a bath a few hours before, reading a book or listening to soothing music. Any activities you choose to engage in before slumber time shouldn't stimulate your brain too much and preferably aid in lowering your body temperature.

7. They unwind before bedtime

Maintaining a consistent bedtime routine is proven to help us fall asleep, which doesn’t seem to be a secret to Askri, Burke and Prescod. All three women drink tea and read a book or article before bedtime. In her book, Kubicek writes that sticking to bedtime habits conditions our minds to slip into sleep mode.

Askri observed exactly that reaction. Askri who bathes every night has recently incorporated a new routine. She sprays lavender mist on her pillowcase, which is said to aid in diminishing sleepless nights. Every time she smells lavender when her bedtime rolls around, she feel drowsy. And every time she bathes, she’s ready to hit the hay.

“It’s the one routine that I always stick too even if I’m traveling for work,” she says about her baths.

8. They stress less

Stress is a major sleep disruptor and for most people work-related stress tends to follow them to the bedroom. Despite holding stressful jobs, Burke, Askri and Prescod, have found the special garlic that keeps the sleep-sucking vampire, aka stress, from stepping over their doors’ thresholds and into their bedrooms.

For Burke it’s yoga. She remembers a time when she was working on an influencer event for Toyota in October, which, at the time, was a new client. Given the short turnaround time, and the pressure of impressing a new client, the stress was getting to her. However, she managed to keep the stress in check with yoga sessions in the evening.

Prescod, on the other hand, relies on a couple of tools. She cuts out anything that causes her stress. That’s why she cleansed her Instagram of accounts that didn’t make her feel good. She also believes in yoga and therapy for a balanced life. All of which help her creativity flow and keep her productive at work.

She says that being successful is synonymous with a wholesome lifestyle.

“If you don't, figure out a way to live in a healthy way, you will not be able to be successful,” she says. “You will burn out.”