Don’t Let Poor Sleep Sabotage Your Performance

by Ann S. Utterback, Ph.D. on April 5, 2016

sleepwalkerSkimping on sleep can be a ticket to disaster whether you’re a broadcaster or a voiceover artist.

I’ve written posts on the importance of sleep before, but a client recently reminded me how it can lead to major problems. This client, like many others I’ve coached, works a morning show, which means she must be up around 2:30 a.m. For her to be at her best, she should be asleep by 7:30 p.m. This is a hard schedule to keep, and she began cheating on it. Consequently, she hit the wall and got sick, but not before she’d had a couple of days of less than stellar work.

This is an all too familiar scenario, but it’s a dangerous one. New research shows that cognitive function is impaired when we don’t get the recommended 7+ hours of sleep, and it’s more than just having fuzzy thinking. There is evidence that lack of sleep over many years can lead to memory loss and possibly irreversible brain damage (Dr. Murali Doraiswamy, AARP Medical Advisory Board).

How could lack of sleep have this catastrophic effect on the brain? It’s because there are parts of the brain that work several times harder during sleep to clear toxins from the brain. Also, crucial chemicals are released during the deeper stages of sleep that help repair the body in numerous ways. Preventing these processes from happening can sabotage more than just your performance.

Missing those 7 hours of sleep has been linked to an increased risk for diabetes, heart problems, strokes, high blood pressure, and obesity. It also can lower your immune system making you more susceptible to all those viruses and bacteria out there.

You may think you cope well without much sleep, but studies show that people who think this actually have reduced cognitive function and don’t know it.  Much like a drunk doesn’t think he’s impaired, lack of sleep can make you feel like you’re functioning fine.

So getting a good night’s sleep is a must. But how do you make that happen? First, be sure you ramp down your screen time at least an hour before you plan to sleep. If you must stay on your ipad or laptop, turn down the screen brightness. For more on this, ck out my post, Power Down for Better Sleep.

And avoid texting in the hour before bedtime. It has been shown to decrease good sleep both because of the screen light and because your brain is more active during texting.

From a previous post here are are 5 more tips:

  1. Get at least 7 hours of sleep every night.
  2. Keep your sleep times as consistent as possible.  If you have to get up early 5 days a week, try and keep your same bedtime on the weekends even though going to bed early is a drag.
  3. Do at least thirty minutes of aerobic exercise every day for deeper sleep.  It’s been shown to improve good sleep by 65%.
  4. Lower the lighting in that last hour you’re awake. This signals the brain it’s time for sleep, and it makes the body secrete melatonin, which is a natural sleep hormone.
  5. Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and large meals at night.  Any of these will disrupt sleep.

Follow these tips, and you should reap the benefits of good sleep!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Elaine Litton April 14, 2016 at 5:22 pm

I’ve been wearing a sleep mask for 3 or 4 years. It completely blocks the light from my eyes/brain. It helps me fall asleep more quickly and sleep more deeply.

Ann S. Utterback, Ph.D. April 14, 2016 at 5:52 pm

Great tip, Elaine! I use a mask, too, if I want more sleep after the sun comes up. Earplugs can help, too!

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