Use The 4-7-8 Method To Fall Asleep Almost Instantly

If you’re looking for motivation to get more sleep, there are plenty of studies I could point you to, like this recent one showing that insufficient sleep causes toxic gunk to build up in your brain. Or how about this one that found sleep deprivation impacts your performance as much as being drunk. Or this unexpected finding that too little sleep makes you paranoid.

But while the research on the need to get enough sleep is as convincing as it is terrifying, I’m pretty sure that the reason so many busy professionals don’t get the recommended amount of shut-eye isn’t lack of motivation to sleep. Instead, if a newborn baby or a frantic deadline isn’t involved, I suspect psychology is often to blame.

We stay up too late because those dark, quiet hours after both the boss and the kids have quieted down for the night are the only ones that are truly ours. Or we behave and go to bed only to find pandemic stress means our minds are whirring too fast to drift off. A great many of us want to get to bed earlier, it’s just that our bodies and minds fight back against our good intentions.

A new find for my grab bag of sleep solutions

Finally getting to sleep at a reasonable hour will require different interventions depending on your particular circumstances. Which is why I always keep an eye out for tips and tricks to help sleep deprived professionals calm down and actually get the rest they crave, from essential sleep hygiene advice to mind tricks to shut off your whirring brain. Hopefully, if I round up enough of these tips, some combination of them can help every reader improve their sleep at least a little bit.

Today I’d like to add one more idea to this grab bag of better sleep advice that seems particularly well suited to our anxious times. It comes from Dr. Andrew Weil, the director of the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine via Vogue, and all it requires is a few seconds and a set of lungs.

The trick is known as the “4-7-8 Method,” and while its origins lay in ancient traditions of yoga, Weil says it’s thoroughly scientifically vetted. The simple breathing technique works to calm stress by activating your parasympathetic nervous system, also known as “rest and digest mode.” Here’s all you have to do, according to Vogue:

  1. Breathe in through your nose for a count of four seconds.
  2. Hold your breath for seven seconds.
  3. Exhale for eight seconds, making a “whoosh” sound through pursed lips.
  4. Repeat up to four times.

The 4-7-8 method can be used to kill stress and calm your body any time of the day, not just at bedtime. And the more consistently you use the technique, the better it works. So give it a try and see if this might be the answer to your sleep challenges.

Source: Use the 4-7-8 Method to Fall Asleep Almost Instantly | Inc.com

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Seven Simple Steps To Sounder Sleep

Everything about our day impacts our sleep. How many minutes we spend outside, what and when we eat, what’s happening with our hormones, our habits, emotions, stress and thoughts – all this feeds into the sleep we end up with at night. All of which I was completely oblivious to when battling chronic insomnia for years on end.

Sleep anxiety can create a very real and vicious circle. I would spend hours lying in bed, increasingly wired, anxious and exhausted as time ticked by, with prescription sleeping pills within reach for those 3am nights when I had to be up first thing. The problem is that the more we worry about sleep, the higher our stress hormones go – and too much of the stress hormone cortisol, whatever the trigger, disturbs our sleep.

We’re left in a state of fight or flight, when we need to be in the opposite state of rest and digest. When my insomnia was at its worst, I’d start my day exhausted, running on empty, and have recurring burn-out days, where an overwhelming fatigue would stop me in my tracks, forcing me to lie down and recharge.

I realise now that the various sleep tips I tried over the years were like sticking plasters on a broken leg – there’s only so much that lavender, earplugs or herbal teas can do when your sleep is disrupted and out of control. Fortunately a eureka moment came along, when I was reading a book by my great great uncle, Richard Waters, a pioneer in cognitive therapy and clinical hypnosis and a protégé of the French pharmacist and self-help guru Emile Coué.

Waters wrote just a couple of pages about insomnia – how the words we use and having an understanding of sleep biology affects our mind, body and our sleep – but they were intriguing enough to set me thinking, researching and experimenting. I interviewed various experts and tried out all the sleep science and tactics I came across, while considering sleep in a much wider context than usual.

Waters also wrote a short, first-person sleep script, about what should be going on in the mind and body in the countdown to sleep. And I recorded myself reading this one-minute sleep script on my phone, which I listened to every day, when fixing my own insomnia and researching my book Teach Yourself to Sleep.

Listening to a sleep script allows us to harness the power of suggestion, using self-talk and clinical hypnosis to change our habitual thoughts, physiology and behaviour. I discussed this at length with clinical hypnosis expert Professor Peter Whorwell, whose hospital department at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust creates bespoke scripts to help treat a wide range of disorders, including insomnia, phobias, pain and debilitating IBS symptoms, with a 75-80% success rate, where other treatments have failed.

Following the thread from Waters and Coué to now, and exploring the fascinating world of sleep, light and habit science, experimental psychology and more, it became clear that it pays to have a basic grasp of the biology and science of sleep and to appreciate the extraordinary power of the mind-body loop. Getting results that last makes life easier on so many levels – quality sleep not only improves our physical and mental health but also our energy levels, cognitive function and overall wellbeing.

I now instinctively remove obstacles that will get in the way of my sleep and set up sleep habit cues throughout my day. This means I can go to sleep without being up half the night, and wake up refreshed and able to get the most out of the following day. Here are seven sleep tips I used to dismantle my insomnia.

1) Stop calling yourself a bad sleeper!

Our words have an immediate effect on us physically and mentally – and you can see this in action if you consciously choose diametrically opposed words to describe the same situation. The words we choose alter our feelings, perceptions, hormones and behaviour, including our sleep.

There are some astounding studies on this and the mind-body loop, and how this can be manipulated to improve our health. As Professor Brooks of the Harvard Business School told me: “Our words codify and solidify our thoughts” – and, in turn, they change how we feel.

2) Embrace the biological fact that your body responds to too much light

Our body is hard-wired to line itself up with the light and dark of nature’s 24-hour clock. As with everything that influences your sleep, it makes all the difference if you’re aware of the simple biology taking place. In this instance, it’s understanding that the extremely light-sensitive cells in your eyes help keep your sleep-wake cycle turning as it should.

I use a light box on certain mornings, to give my office light some extra clout. At the other end of the day, a screen break before bed, moving away from bright, stay-wake signals and towards the darkness of night, helps boost sleep-inducing melatonin levels.

3) Weaken the negative fallout from stress

Stress is a huge sleep disrupter with nearly 50% of sleep issues blamed on stress. To help balance the body’s chemical cocktail in favour of sleep, it’s invaluable if we lean on science-based stress busters, to bring down our cortisol levels, which the pace, anxiety and overstimulation of modern life is forever increasing.

Effective stress busters I’ve found include “forest bathing”, aka walking among trees, as well as reframing my emotions and changing my perception of stress to weaken its hold. I regularly make use of these tactics among others if I feel my stress levels spiking during the day.

4) Know your DIY sleep habit science

Bad sleep habits, like any other, can be systematically intercepted and replaced with good ones, once you know how they take shape in the brain. Our bedroom is our sleep habit context, and making certain changes here, behavioural and content-wise, helps to break automatic sleep behaviour. Displacing negative rumination by listing the things you’re grateful for gets measurable results.

Another thing you can do is remove sleep-sabotaging cues from your bedroom (eg, work and screens), while loading in sleep-promoting cues (eg, sleep-inducing scents), to help new, desirable sleep habits stick.

5) Listen to a sleep script

Habitual thoughts set off a chain reaction that changes your emotions, body chemicals, behaviour, expectations and your sleep. A sleep script, which is a positive affirmation of how well your mind and body are preparing you for sleep, helps with this by gradually shifting your habitual sleep-related thoughts. This taps into the power of self-talk and clinical hypnosis, which are increasingly being explored by scientists, neuroscientists and medics.

Also, by listening to a sleep script during the day, you give yourself a moment to pause, creating a window for any stress to subside. I listened to myself reading a short sleep script daily, when sorting out my chronic insomnia and still rely on one as a very potent sleep habit cue.

6) Have an armchair offload

If your mind is full of worries, or all the jobs you need to do tomorrow/this week, have an armchair offload some time before bed, to let your mind think about it all and perhaps write it down. Ideally this would involve sitting in a relaxed space that isn’t your bedroom, giving you time to reflect before heading to bed, once the rush of the day, and/or TV shows are over.

Once again, it’s more impactful if you have an inkling of the biology and science going on. By giving yourself this time to think, or jot down any notes, what you’re really doing is moving worries or preoccupations from your brain’s emotional HQ, the amygdala, to your problem-solving pre-frontal cortex. What’s more, your brain will look for solutions while you dream.

7) Stare into the darkness of a pitch-black bedroom

Staring into the darkness last thing, while lying in bed, will help to increase your sleep-promoting melatonin levels, as the “hormone of sleep” is released at night when those light-sensitive photoreceptors in your eyes see that it’s dark out there.

Among other things, melatonin is also an immune system booster, so allowing your body to release as much of it as possible throughout your evening by avoiding too much bright light the closer you get to bed, is a plus in more ways than just enjoying easier, more restorative sleep.

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Source: Seven simple steps to sounder sleep | Life and style | The Guardian

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Electric Sleep: The Gadgetry Tracking and Hacking The Way We Rest

As activity tracking goes mainstream, an arsenal of consumer technology is rolling out for sleep. But how much do these interventions help?

At 2.16am, I stumble to the bathroom. I catch a glimpse of myself. The light from the red bulb is flattering – I’ve been told to eliminate all blue light on my nocturnal trek – but the sleep-tracker headband, currently emitting the sound of gently lapping waves, kills any woke-up-like-this vibe. I adjust its double straps and feel my way back to bed.

The next time I wake is at 6.30am – after fractured dreams in which the Dreem 2 headband makes many cameos – to birdsong, also from the headband. When I check the app, I see I have slept six-and-a-half hours of my anticipated eight. Anxious to remedy this, I head out for my first coffee. In his new book Blueprint: Build a Bulletproof Body for Extreme Adventure in 365 Days, athlete Ross Edgley warns that this sort of overriding behaviour can bring about “biochemical bankruptcy”. Not now, Ross.

Health influencers like Edgley are all over sleep lately, and no wonder, when so many of us obsess over it. A 2021 report released by the Sleep Health Foundation estimates around one in 10 Australians have a sleep disorder, while a report from 2019 found that more than half are suffering from at least one chronic sleep symptom. Studies have suggested that sleep deficiency can lead to weight gain and a weakened immune system and that poor sleep patterns may contribute to later dementia risk.

In recent years, sleep-fretting has intersected with fitness-tracking, with the latest bio-hacks regularly featured on the podcasts of personal-development heavyweights such as Joe Rogan, whose Whoop Strap – worn around the wrist – told him he was getting four or five hours a night, not the seven or eight he’d thought; and Aubrey Marcus, whose Oura ring measures various biomarkers overnight and gives him a total score in the morning. “If I can get close to 80%, I’m golden for the day,” Marcus told the authors of My Morning Routine.

Wearables, such as watches, rings and headbands, appeal to those of us who enjoy geeking out on our stats, but could they also be cultivating anxiety and feeding into insomnia? Associate Prof Darren Mansfield, a sleep disorders and respiratory physician who is also deputy chair of the Sleep Health Foundation, thinks some balance is needed.

“These devices in general can be a good thing,” he says. “They’re not as accurate as a laboratory-based sleep study, but they are progressing in that direction, and technology enables the person to be engaged in their health. Where it can become problematic is people can become a bit enslaved by the data, which can lead to anxiety or rumination over the results and significance. That might escalate any problems, or even start creating problems.”

As a clinician, Mansfield thinks that the most useful role of these devices is monitoring routine, not obsessing over the hours of good-quality sleep. “There will be some error margin, but nonetheless when we’re looking for diagnostic information, like timing of sleep and duration of sleep, they can capture that,” he says.

Since Mansfield admits his sleep doesn’t need much hacking, I seek out an insomniac-turned-human guinea pig. Mike Toner runs the dance music agency Thick as Thieves, and has been on a mission for five years to fix the sleep issues earned from a decade of late nights in Melbourne clubs and reaching for his phone to answer international emails at 3am.

“I tried everything,” he says. “Magnesium capsules and spray, melatonin and herbal sleep aids. I even signed up for treatment at a sleep centre. You sleep in this room with all these wires connected to you, things coming out of your nose, cameras trained on you. Ironically, I slept better that night than I have any other night.”

He decided to start monitoring his body in earnest, learning about the latest devices from the Huberman Lab Podcast and The Quantified Scientist. Sleep-monitoring wearables have progressed from having an accelerometer to track movements which are fed through an algorithm to predict when a person is asleep, to being able to track sleep latency; sleep efficacy; heart-rate variability; light, deep and REM sleep and sleeping positions.

Toner’s accumulated a few as the technology becomes more sophisticated. He estimates having spent around $1,500 on them, and a further $3,500 for the sleep-centre treatment.

Then there are the cooling devices. Toner beds down on a Chilipad as soon as the weather gets warmer – a hydro-powered cooling mattress.

The idea is that lying down in a cool room – perhaps after taking a warm shower – tricks the body into slumber, since our body temperature drops when we’re asleep.

Non-techy strategies include having hands and feet out from under the covers, or using a fan. Lifestyle guru and entrepreneur Tim Ferriss recommends a short ice bath before bed. Be warned, though: Dave Asprey – founder of Bulletproof, which sells high-performance products – once tried putting ice packs on his body right before bed. As he told MensHealth.com: “I ended up getting ice burns on about 15% of my body.”

Mansfield says that ensuring you’re cooler in the evenings may help with sleep. “Generally, a lower-level temperature is better tolerated at night … 25C can make a beautiful, comfortable day, but can be unbearably hot at night when our own core temperature drops, so 18C or 19C is more tolerable.

“Then in the last two hours before getting up, your temperature rises again – you might have thrown off the blanket in the night and then might wake up at 5am feeling freezing cold.”

And what about the new frontiers of technology? According to neuroscientist Matthew Walker, in his influential book Why We Sleep, in the future, we can expect the marriage of tracking devices with in-home networked devices such as thermostats and lighting.

“Using common machine-learning algorithms applied over time, we should be able to intelligently teach the home thermostat what the thermal sweet spot is of each occupant in each bedroom, based on the biophysiology calculated by their sleep-tracking device,” Walker says. “Better still, we could program a natural circadian lull and rise in temperature across the night that is in harmony with each body’s expectations.”

Mansfield thinks this kind of integration is feasible, and that a thermostat linked to a device measuring circadian rhythms offers plausible benefits in preparing people’s sleep, but he predicts that automated control of room lighting will wind up being manually overridden, because technology can’t necessarily gauge when we’re in the middle of reading a book or having a conversation. “It’s liable to just irritate people,” he says. He’s more interested in technology that will track conditions like sleep apnoea.

As Toner has concluded, no device is a silver bullet. Ultimately, it was a $70 online cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) course that his GP referred him to that fixed his sleep over three months of strict adherence. Now he just uses technology to make sure he’s not drifting off track.

The key lessons? Only use your bedroom for sleep and sex. Set your alarm for the same time, no matter how late you get to bed. Screens off early. No day-napping. Alcohol is a bad idea. All of these things are easily monitored yourself using a good old notebook, and they don’t cost a cent. They just take persistence.

With those good habits in place, Toner is now mindful of how he will put the CBT pointers he’s learned during lockdowns into practice once his life picks up its pace again.

“I used to put this obligation on myself to be there all the time with my artists, but interestingly, coming out of this pandemic, a lot of the artists are having the same train of thought as I am, wanting to avoid late nights,” Toner says.

He’s even coaching some of them for a charity run – quite the lifestyle change for many. “I’ve spent so long fixing this that one of the things I’ve realized, when we eventually go back to work routines, is I’m going to be fiercely protective of my sleep.

By:

Source: Electric sleep: the gadgetry tracking and hacking the way we rest | Sleep | The Guardian

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How To Stay Cool at Night, Even When You’re a Hot Sleeper

You might recognize a particular sensation: You climb into bed and drift off to sleep, your head comfortably rested on the cold side of the pillow. And then, in the middle of the night, you’re roused awake, your limbs sweaty as you toss the covers aside. The struggle for hot sleepers is real.

The good thing is there are measures you can take to reduce your chances of having consistent unpleasant wake-up calls: Your bedding, mattress, and even the time you eat dinner have an affect on your body temperature as you sleep. Here are a few myths to stop believing—and what to do instead to get the best, perfectly cool sleep.

Myth: You Should Only Take Cold Showers

“Contrary to popular belief, a warm shower or bath is a great way to cool down,” says One Medical provider and regional medical director Natasha Bhuyan, M.D. Once you step out of the shower, your body will naturally start to cool down. Cold water might feel great at night on an especially hot day, but since it’s stimulating rather than relaxing, it can make it more difficult to fall asleep, she adds.

Myth: Memory Foam Always Overheats

You’ve likely heard that memory foam mattresses trap heat, making it hard to maintain a reasonable temperature at night. But not all memory foam is made equally. “Look for one with temperature-regulating fibers or a layer of cooling gel,” says Craig Schmeizer, CEO and founder of Idle Group (which includes companies Idle and Haven). Because they’re denser than traditional coil mattresses, many memory foam options allow for less circulation—hence, higher temperatures for sleepers. But the right materials can allow for optimal airflow.

Myth: Being a Hot Sleeper Is Always Natural

Always end up feeling hot when you’re trying to fall asleep? It could just be your natural body temperature—but don’t necessarily jump to that conclusion. “There could be aggravating factors at play,” says Bhuyan. If your room temperature is above average, if you eat right before bed, and if you drink alcohol or caffeine, you can experience restless or hot nights. If you’ve ruled out any other possibilities, then it could be hormonal fluctuations.

Myth: Mattress Protectors Don’t Matter

It’s not just your mattress that matters. “Starting at the base of your bedding is an easy way to make sure every layer of your sleep situation is as cool as ‘the other side of the pillow,’” says Schmeizer. He recommends using a mattress protector made with Tencel fiber, which wicks away excess moisture, leading to overall more comfortable sleep.

Myth: Fans Lower the Temperature in Your Space

If you’re not cranking the AC, Bhuyan recommends opening the window and using a fan to circulate the air in your space. “Although that won’t lower the temperature of the room, it can definitely create a sensation of cooling,” she says. If you’re using an overhead one, make sure it goes counterclockwise for the optimal effect.

Myth: Silky Sheets Are Always Cooling

Slippery satin or microfiber sheets might seem like they would offer the chillest night’s rest, but it’s best to stick to the classics: “Cotton pajamas and sheets are the most breathable and can help keep us cool at night,” says Bhuyan. Percale sheets have a looser weave than sateen, so are best for hot sleepers, and bamboo, hemp, and linen sheets are great options, too.

By: Rebecca Deczynski

Source: How to Stay Cool at Night, Even When You’re a Hot Sleeper

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How to Sleep When it’s Hot Outside

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Content Resources:

Harding, E., Franks, N., & Wisden, W. (2019). The Temperature Dependence of Sleep. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 13. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6491889/

Szymusiak, R. (2020). Handbook of Clinical Neurology (Vol. 156). Elsevier. Retrieved fromhttps://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-444-63912-7.00020-5

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (2019, August 13). Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/understanding-Sleep

Walker, H. K., Hall, W. D., & Hurst, J. W. (1990). Clinical Methods: The History, Physical, and Laboratory Examinations (3rd ed.). Boston: Butterworths.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21250045/

Okamoto-Mizuno, K., & Mizuno, K. (2012). Effects of thermal environment on sleep and circadian rhythm. Journal of Physiological Anthropology, 31(1), 14. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3427038/

Breus, M. J. (2017, November 30). Hot Nights Can Disrupt Your Sleep. Psychology Today. Retrieved September 18, 2020, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/sleep-newzzz/201711/hot-nights-can-disrupt-your-sleep

National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute. (2011, September). In Brief: Your Guide to Healthy Sleep. Retrieved September 18, 2020, from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/sleep/healthysleepfs.pdf

How Much Do I Need To Sleep? It Depends on Your Age

Do you find yourself dozing off at your desk, even after what you thought was a good night’s rest? Then you probably have the same question as so many others: How much do I need to sleep? The answer of how many hours you need is not so straightforward, said Dr. Raj Dasgupta, an assistant professor of clinical medicine in the division of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California.Sleep needs are very individualized, he said, but the general recommendation — the “sweet spot” — is to get seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Recommendations really change as people age, however.”Sleep needs vary over the lifespan,” said Christina Chick, a postdoctoral scholar in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University.

CDC’s sleep guideline

Adults should get at least seven hours of sleep a night, but 1 in 3 of them don’t, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Poor sleep has been associated with long-term health consequences, such as higher risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and dementia. In the short term, even one day of sleep loss can harm your well-being, according to a recent study. People who get poor sleep might also be predisposed to conditions such as anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder, Dasgupta said.”There are chronic consequences, and there are acute consequences, which is why sleep is more than just saying, ‘The early bird gets the worm,'” he said. “It’s much more than that.”

Sleep for kids and teens

If it feels like babies are sleeping all day, they pretty much are. In the first year of life, babies can sleep 17 to 20 hours a day, Dasgupta said. Infants 4 months to 12 months need their 12 to 16 hours of sleep, including naps, according to Chick. Toddlers, who are between the ages of 1 and 3, should get 11 to 14 hours of sleep, according to Dr. Bhanu Kolla, associate professor of psychiatry and psychology at the Mayo Clinic with a special interest in sleep. Children ages 3 to 5 should sleep for 10 to 13 hours, he added, and from ages 6 to 12, they should sleep nine to 12 hours. For kids up to age 5, these sleep recommendations include naps, Chick said. Teenagers should get eight to 10 hours of sleep, Kolla said. This recommendation has sparked a debate in recent years about start times for school.

“As children move toward adolescence, they naturally prefer to go to sleep later and wake up later,” Chick said. “This is why school start times are such an important focus of debate: If you can’t fall asleep until later, but your school start time remains the same, you’re going to get less sleep.” The quantity of sleep is important, but so is the quality of it, Dasgupta added. Getting deeper sleep and hitting the rapid eye movement (REM) stage helps with cognition, memory and productivity throughout the day. REM is the sleep stage where memories are consolidated and stored. It also allows us to dream vividly. People can sometimes get the right quantity of sleep but still feel fatigued, and this might mean they aren’t reaching these sleep stages.

Sleep for college students and adults

The stereotypical image of the college student usually includes messy hair, undereye bags, and a coffee or energy drink in hand. It doesn’t matter if they stay up all night partying or cramming for an exam — both result in sleep deprivation. “It’s unfortunate, but it’s almost like a rite of passage in a college student to pull the perennial all-nighter even though we know that’s not what you’re supposed to do,” Dasgupta said. He and Kolla concur that seven to nine hours of sleep is best for adults, though Kolla added that older adults may be better at coping with some sleep deprivation.

As an exception, young adults may need nine or more hours on a regular basis because their brains are still developing, Chick said, and adults of any age may also need nine or more hours when recovering from an injury, illness or sleep debt. There are also “natural variants,” Kolla said, referring to some people who require more than 10 hours of sleep and others who get less than four and function normally. If you’re wondering whether it matters if you’re an early bird or night owl, Chick said it depends on “whether your lifestyle is compatible” with your preference. “If you are a night owl, but your job requires you to be in the office at 7 am, this misalignment is less than ideal for your physical and mental health,” she wrote in an email. “But it would be equally problematic for a morning person who works the night shift.”

How to improve your sleep

Are you not getting enough sleep? Here are a few ways to solve that:

1. Stick to a bedtime routine. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. You can even keep a journal to log these sleep times and how often you wake up at night, Dasgupta said, so you can have an idea of what works for you. You should also make sure your room is dark, cool and comfortable when you go to sleep.

2. Turn off the electronic devices. Do this as early as possible before bed, Chick added, as light exposure can affect your body’s sleep-wake cycle. “Particularly if you are aiming to fall asleep earlier, it’s important to expose yourself to bright natural light as early as possible in the day, and to limit exposure to light in the hours before bedtime,” she said. “Electronic devices mimic many of the wavelengths in sunlight that cue your body to stay awake.”

3. Try mindfulness techniques. Breathing exercises, meditation and yoga can also support sleep, Chick added. Her recent study showed that mindfulness training helped children sleep over an hour more per night.

4. Set good food and exercise habits. Finally, eating healthy and keeping a daily fitness regimen can support better sleep at night, Dasgupta said. “Always try to be consistent with exercise during the day,” he said. “Exercise relieves stress, it helps build up your drive to sleep at night, so there’s many good things there.”

Source: How much do I need to sleep? It depends on your age – CNN

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Dementia and sleep deprivation linked in recent study – The Washington Post

Sleep deprivation has been linked to hypertension, obesity and diabetes and has long been suspected of having a connection to dementia. Now, a large new study has more clearly established that association by concluding that people who sleep less than six hours a night in midlife have a greater risk of developing late-onset dementia.

That doesn’t mean middle-aged short sleepers should panic, according to experts. Although the study is an important step forward, much about the connection between sleep and dementia remains unknown, they said. Still, it can’t hurt to work on your sleep habits while research continues, and you’ll find some strategies listed below.

In the study, European researchers followed nearly 8,000 people in Britain for 25 years, starting when subjects were 50. They found that those who consistently got six hours of sleep or less per night in their 50s and 60s were about 30 percent more likely to develop dementia later in life, compared to those who logged seven hours of sleep per night. That was independent of “sociodemographic, behavioural, cardiometabolic, and mental health factors,” the study authors wrote. Findings were published in the journal Nature Communications in late April.

“This is just another example of the importance of appropriate sleep for brain health,” said Michael V. Vitiello, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington at Seattle and member of the SleepFoundation.org medical advisory board, who wasn’t involved in the study. “It’s really important for people to be conscious of making sure that they sleep well. It’s not trivial, and it shouldn’t be the last thing you think about. It shouldn’t be the thing you sacrifice.”

Lack of sleep might increase dementia risk by impairing learning and memory development, said study author Andrew Sommerlad, an old-age psychiatrist at University College London, or it could affect the brain’s ability to clear harmful protein waste products.

Researchers have spent years trying to understand the sleep-dementia connection, a quest that becomes more urgent as the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease balloons. More than 6 million Americans are living with the disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, and by 2050, that number is expected to reach nearly 13 million. Yet, it’s a difficult area in which to draw conclusions.

Earlier this year, Charles Czeisler, chief of the sleep and circadian disorders division at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, co-authored a similar study that found that adults age 65 and older who got five hours or less of sleep per night had double the risk of dementia than those who clocked seven or eight hours per night. Results were published in the journal Aging.

“At this point, it’s too early to say that behavior X leads to Y,” Czeisler said. “But the association certainly reveals the importance of continuing to study the relationship.”

One of the challenges to studying the link between sleep and cognitive decline is that it’s difficult to determine what happens first: Is too little sleep a symptom of the brain changes that often begin decades before cognitive problems appear? Or does it cause those changes? So far, that’s still unclear, said Claire Sexton, director of scientific programs and outreach with the Alzheimer’s Association.

“There’s mounting evidence pointing toward the relationship between sleep and dementia,” she said. “But there are a lot of unanswered questions. There’s no one factor that would guarantee someone will develop dementia, and there’s no one factor that will guarantee someone won’t.”

Vitiello lauded the new study’s lengthy follow-up period and examination of people in their 50s (most similar research focuses on those 65 and older). But he emphasized that the findings estimate increased risk for the entire population, not for any one individual. “These are predictions,” he said. “On average, if you have this kind of disturbed sleep, your odds go up this percentage. It doesn’t mean that just because you’re a 55-year-old sleeping under six hours a night, you’re guaranteed to have an increased Alzheimer’s risk of 30 percent.”

Exactly why someone is a short sleeper — for example, if they have insomnia, hold multiple jobs that require odd hours or naturally need less sleep — likely plays a role in their unique risk, he added. The study didn’t account for those factors.

Image without a caption

Source: Dementia and sleep deprivation linked in recent study – The Washington Post

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What Should We Do About Digital Fatigue

Digital fatigue – referring to mental exhaustion from overuse of digital technologies – is by no means a new phenomenon. However, over the past year, it has become an overwhelming contributing factor in poor mental health and wellbeing in employees.

Since the start of the pandemic, screen time has increased dramatically as employees have joined endless Zoom meetings and felt pressure to work harder than ever before while remote. But outside of work, employees are also having to use devices to check the news, connect with loved-ones, and even to relax and unwind.

Another contributing factor in the current environment is the fact that employees are reluctant to take time off, and instead holding onto their leave in the hope of using it once lockdowns are lifted. The irony is that time off is even more crucial during these anxious times

This digital fatigue has coincided with unprecedented challenges from the pandemic, and major political uncertainty and social justice movements across the world. Employees are emotionally drained and at least 55% have reported dreading another day on the job. Businesses cannot afford to ignore this problem.

There is a variety of ways to tackle the issue, some may involve the following:

  • Enforcing a temporary camera-off policy
  • The happiness-index of walking meetings
  • Baked in screen breaks to calendars
  • The imperative for variety

What kind of impact is winter in lockdown having on digital fatigue?

There is no doubt that lockdown in winter is very different to the lockdown we experienced in summer and is contributing to an increase in digital fatigue.

In the summer months, we were more likely to step away from our screens to enjoy the longer days and brighter weather. However, there was also a big psychological difference in that the pandemic was new, and we were hopeful there would be a rapid return to normal.

Lockdown working

In the current lockdown, employees are spending more hours looking at screens due to the dark, cold weather outside. The roll-out of the vaccine programme has given some optimism, but it is arguably resulting in increased screen time as people check for updates.

The problem we have is that companies have been slow to move off a crisis-footing and adjust processes to actually support employees in what has become their new reality.

What can businesses to do to reduce digital fatigue and support employees?

Businesses need to find ways to help employees break the monotony of being in front of a computer all day and there are a number of options they could explore.

One of the biggest factors behind digital fatigue is the amount of time employees are spending on video conferencing calls. We are seeing some companies trying to tackle this by having audio-only meetings on certain days, meaning employees don’t need to be staring at a screen. This tactic can be effective when combined with encouragement to go for a walk or do another activity such as yoga or cooking.

Another contributing factor in the current environment is the fact that employees are reluctant to take time off, and instead holding onto their leave in the hope of using it once lockdowns are lifted. The irony is that time off is even more crucial during these anxious times. Businesses should encourage employees to use holiday, or even think about rolling-out blanket mental health days.

Employees are also suffering from the pressure to appear always-on while working remotely. Leaders should actively encourage flexibility in the hours people work, giving clear permission for employees to take longer lunch breaks or finish early when they need to.

Driving productivity and maintaining wellbeing is not a zero-sum game. By encouraging flexibility, time off and respect of mental health, businesses can energise employees and better equip them to perform in these challenging times.

Brian Kropp

 

By

 

Source: What should we do about digital fatigue? – Personnel Today

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Sleep Deprived Financial Traders Make Lower Stock Market Returns

Do financial traders make better returns in the stock market when they are well rested? You would intuitively assume that a trader’s level of sleep would affect their decision making.

Several studies have certainly shown that sleep affects the ability of people to make decisions in general. Though admittedly based on small samples of participants, these studies show that those who are short on sleep tend to have relatively low attention to detail, poor memory, poor performance and significant mood swings.

But when it comes to whether sleep affects financial decisions, the evidence has been mixed. The only measure of sleepiness that has been used is the annual clock changes for daylight saving that take place in many countries, since they disturb many people’s sleep. A few studies have used this to look at how stock market returns are affected on the Mondays directly after the clocks go back or forward by an hour.

One such study in 2000 concluded that returns were relatively low when traders lacked sleep, and suggested that the lack of sleep might make them more risk-averse because they were anxious and struggling to concentrate. But later studies, such as this one from 2002, suggested that the correlation between sleep and cautious investing might not be as strong empirically as initially thought.

My work

Daylight-saving time changes have the advantage that we all have to adjust them, but they are far from an ideal proxy for sleep since they only occur twice a year, and the impact on people’s sleep is relatively small since the clock only changes by an hour. This might explain why the research evidence has been mixed in this area.

To try and improve our understanding in this area, I undertook a pilot study of a fund manager in England, analysing his investment transactions in the context of sleep data that he recorded in a diary.

I found that his sleep patterns did indeed influence his investment decisions. In line with the theory from the 2000 study, the fund manager made fewer transactions when he was short on sleep.

To see whether there was a wider correlation, I sought to develop a new proxy for sleep. We know that around 80% of people search for information online about their health issues, and there is no reason to believe that investors behave any differently. I also knew that Google data has been used by researchers to measure investor attention to individual stocks.

I therefore created a sleepiness index based on the extent to which people in the US were searching Google for 28 relevant terms including “sleep deprivation”, “sleeping pills” and “jet lag cure”. Some of these terms came from allowing the Google algorithm to offer up potential sleepiness terms based on suggested autocompletes.

The more that people searched for things to do with sleepiness, the greater the indication of sleep difficulties. Unlike the time changes from daylight saving, my index has the advantage of being based on daily data, and can measure a much wider range of sleepiness. To test its validity, I checked the index against times that we would normally associate with sleepiness, including daylight-saving time changes and also sunrises and sunsets. Sure enough, sleepiness-related Google searches increase at these times.

The index confirmed that stock-market returns are indeed quite low on days that traders are short on sleep. For every 1% daily increase in sleep difficulties across the population, stock-market returns fell by 0.14%. I also found that these patterns reversed on subsequent days, which may mean that traders realise that their initial decisions were poor and take steps to correct them.

What next from a research point of view? Researchers could potentially use the data from sleep apps to get more accurate measures of the relationship between stock market returns and the population’s sleepiness over time. No doubt the better we understand this, the more that traders will be able to use it to their advantage.

My work is another example of how online search data can shed new light on old research subjects. There are surely lots of other ways in which the academic community can use it to understand other factors that influence our decisions.

By: Antonios Siganos  Senior Lecturer in Finance, University of Glasgow

Source: Sleep-deprived financial traders make lower stock market returns – new research

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What Happens When You Work From Bed For A Year

(Credit: Alamy)

For many people, working from home, or ‘WFH’, has also come to mean ‘WFB’ – working from bed. Getting dressed and commuting to an office has been replaced by splashing water on your face and cracking open a computer as you settle back under your blanket.

A staggering number of people are setting up shop on their mattresses; according to a November 2020 study, 72% of 1,000 Americans surveyed said they had worked remotely from their bed during the pandemic – a 50% increase since the start of the crisis. One in 10 reported they spent “most or all of their workweek” – 24-to-40 hours or more – in bed. This is especially true of young workers; in the UK, workers aged 18 to 34 are the least likely to have a proper desk and chair, and are twice as likely to work from bed than older workers.

But WFB isn’t just for lack of a proper chair – many simply love the cosiness and ease of the set-up. On Instagram, the #WorkFromBed hashtag pulls up thousands of photos, many of them featuring smiling people snuggled up in their pyjamas with cups of coffee, maybe even breakfast on a tray.

But the reality is that turning your bed into your office can trigger a slew of health problems, both psychological and physical. And even if you don’t notice them now, adverse effects – possibly permanent – could emerge later on in life.

Studying and doing homework from bed is bad, too, and working on a bed while lying on your stomach can be especially bad for your body (Credit: Alamy)

Ergonomic nightmare

It’s important to acknowledge that working from home is a privilege that isn’t afforded to hundreds of millions of people. Plus, for some remote workers, space for a full workstation just isn’t available, meaning working from bed may be their only choice.

Still, for others, it’s the easiest option and the path of least resistance. (Motivation is an all-time low during the pandemic, after all.) People may have a desk or a kitchen table to place their computer on – they just choose not to.

Young people are particularly likely to fall victim to these bad habits, because they may not feel the strain of them right away

But experts say that regardless of whether working from bed is avoidable or not, the ergonomic advice is the same: it’s not good for your body, so it’s very important to vary your posture and support different parts of your body wherever possible.

Your neck, back, hips and more are all strained when you’re on a soft surface that encourages you to slump or sprawl. “None of it is optimal,” says Susan Hallbeck, director of health-care-system engineering at the Mayo Clinic, one of the largest medical research institutions in the US. “You’re really not supported in a way that’s conducive to work.”

Young people, she points out, are particularly likely to fall victim to these bad habits, because they may not feel the strain of them right away. But the pain will flare up down the road. And depending on how bad your habits have been over this last year, the damage may already be done. It depends on the person, but it may be too late to undo the ergonomic problems you’ll face when you get older.

These ailments could include simple headaches, and could also extend to permanent stiffness in your back, arthritis and what’s known as cervical pain – that’s pain in the bones, ligaments and muscles in your neck that allow motion. “Anything is better than continuing the bad habit. Whenever you can stop, stop,” says Hallbeck.

If you must continue working from bed (“there are grades of bad,” says Hallbeck), try recreating the experience of sitting in an upright chair as much as you can, and aim for “neutral posture” – that is, avoid putting strain on any one part of your body.

Roll up a pillow and stick it under your lower back for lumbar support, put pillows under your knees, try to separate the display from your keyboard (if you’re able) and put the display at eye level or higher. Whatever you do, avoid lying on your stomach to type; it really strains your neck and elbows.

When in doubt, get creative, like using an ironing board as a makeshift standing desk. But if you possibly can, it’s worth splashing out on some comfort. “If you’re going to be working from home for a long time” – and most experts predict that we will – “it really does pay to invest in a good workstation, even if it’s a very small workstation,” adds Hallbeck.

Breaking your brain

When you work from bed for a year, it doesn’t just potentially wreck your body. It’s possibly bad for your productivity and sleep habits, too.

“As sleep specialists, we tend to recommend that the bed should be for the three Ss: sleeping, for sex or for when you’re sick. That’s it,” says Rachel Salas, associate professor of neurology and sleep expert at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland.

“The more you watch TV in bed, play video games in bed and not sleep in bed, your brain starts learning, ‘oh, OK, we can do any one of these activities in bed’. It starts building these associations, which eventually evolve into conditioned behaviours.”

Not only does working from your bed spell potential ergonomic disaster, but it can rewire your brain to disassociate your bed with sleep (Credit: Alamy)

Not only does working from your bed spell potential ergonomic disaster, but it can rewire your brain to disassociate your bed with sleep (Credit: Alamy)

This is what experts call ‘sleep hygiene’ – essentially, best practice as it relates to being in bed. Putting on your pyjamas at night is good sleep hygiene because it tells your body it’s time to start shutting down. Doomscrolling or sending emails in bed is bad sleep hygiene.

So, when you set up shop in bed with your laptop, phone, Slack and all the glowing screens your job requires every day, your brain and body eventually stop associating bed with rest. That’s a big reason why the pandemic has led to ‘coronasomnia’, says Salas, referring to the global spike in insomnia and sleep disorders that has accompanied Covid-19.

“You’re really training your brain to be alert, and [telling it] this is where your ideas come and this is where it’s full work mode” when you WFB, adds Salas. “When you’re trying to wind down and go to sleep, your brain is like – ‘wait a minute, what are we doing? This is work time’.”

Doing this for a year, or any extended period of time, could lead to insomnia, or to something called circadian rhythm disorder. That’s when our bodies’ natural clocks, that tell us when it’s time to sleep, get thrown out of whack in the long term. Salas says it can also aggravate non-sleep-related issues you may have, like restless leg syndrome, in which case the affected body parts need rest to avoid the symptoms associated with the condition.

And disturbed nights, body pain or both mean that work-wise, you’re less likely to be productive, creative or focused, the experts say, making it likely your work could suffer.

A problem for everyone?

The most pernicious issue, however, is that all those potential problems may show up in some WFB workers, but not in others.

“Some people will swear that it’s not an issue for them: they can work in bed, they can sleep in bed,” says Salas. “They can do whatever they want in bed and it doesn’t negatively affect their sleep.”

Genetics, environmental factors, how bad the habits are and how long you do them, your age: all of these play a role in whether working from bed for a year or longer is actually going to be bad for you. “It’s not a dose-response relationship,” says Hallbeck.

And although working from bed may not necessarily be something you can change – or want to change – it’s important to keep in mind that your body and brain may not feel the fallout at the moment. But they could, someday. “They won’t feel it right now,” says Hallbeck, especially of younger workers who WFB. “But as they age, it will pop up.”

It may feel like one more thing to worry about in the Covid-19 era. But if this period has taught us anything, it’s that, as far as health goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry. “If you don’t have any of the negative effects, great,”says Salas. “But that might not always be the case.”

Source: What happens when you work from bed for a year – BBC Worklife

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Taking Breaks At Work In 2021: The Secret To Productivity and Well-Being When You Work From Home

We’ve all sat through weary-eyed, leg-cramping power sessions at our desk, chasing a deadline, or busy dealing with endless tasks, emails, and meetings (now zoom meetings) back to back. 

If you are one of the millions moving to working remotely in 2021, you are probably working longer hours, putting in more continual desk time, and without the daily commute, more sedentary than ever.

In a recent report released from the National Bureau of Economic Research, researchers discovered that workers are working close to an hour more per day during lockdowns than they were before the pandemic. 

So, how do we navigate the new normal and restore our productivity, focus, and well-being? 

The secret is to take regular breaks at work

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes…including you.”
― Anne Lamott

If you listen to the experts, breaks are essentially little “interventions” that help us gracefully and productively manage the daily grind with rationale and perspective intact.

This complete guide covers all the nitty-gritty about taking breaks at work.

You will learn the importance of taking breaks, how to take effective breaks, what to do on your daily breaks to truly relax and boost your productivity, and a step-by-step guide on how to design a system so that you can easily make breaks a regular part of your routine and stick to it.

Sounds good?Let’s dive in.

Yes, it’s tempting to just want to “power through” one more hour of work. You don’t want to take breaks because you think you can get more done. But did you?

One day you started realizing that your neck, wrist, and back are hurting, despite being an otherwise health-conscious, active lifestyle advocate.

Whether you’re an employee or project stakeholder, hours spent sitting at a desk and staring at a screen puts a strain on your productivity and health.

Take a look.

Our Bodies Suffer

There is a lot of pressure to sit in the office – it’s how you get your work done. 

Now that you are probably spending more days working at home, where you don’t need to get up and walk around to talk to people. You are not walking to meetings, you don’t even need to commute. 

You are more exposed to the danger of sitting too much.

Researchers have linked sitting for prolonged periods of time to a significantly higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, and depression, as well as muscle and joint problems. 

Toni Yancey, a professor of health services at UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health, describes the process: “Sitting shuts down electrical activity in the legs. It makes the body less sensitive to insulin, causes calorie-burning to plummet, and slows the breakdown of dangerous blood fats, lowering ‘good’ HDL cholesterol.”

What’s noteworthy is that:

A recent science advisory from the American Heart Association has shown that going to the gym, running, or your favorite fitness class, doesn’t cancel out the negative impact of time spent being sedentary.

Radical as it might sound, you can’t undo sitting.

While working out and fitness are important if your goal is to maintain or get in the best shape of your life, it cannot reverse the harmful effects of sitting for the rest of the day and moving very little within your office or home.

So, what’s the solution?

To take regular breaks to get up and move.

Our Brains Depleted

Despite all the physical damage, what happens to your brain when you don’t take breaks: Your productivity goes downhill…before you notice.

Brain scientists are very aware of the fact that prolonged work is depleting. The “fading” that we experience creates declines in mood and performance.

“We don’t know exactly what in the brain gets depleted, but when you do a cognitively demanding task, it operates as though there’s a ‘mental fuel’ that gets burned up.”
– William Helton, PhD, a professor of human factors and applied cognition at George Mason University

Recent studies show that those who give in to some kind of break once an hour perform better than those who just keep at it without a break.

The Power of Taking Breaks

Many people experience “productivity breakthroughs” after going against their instincts to meet a deadline by taking a pause. We emerge refreshed and more resilient after getting up for both brain and movement breaks.

So, how do breaks help us? 

Here’s a quick look at the magic taking breaks does to our brain:

  • Improved focus.
  • Boosted creativity and problem-solving abilities
  • Better information retention
  • Improved productivity
  • Prevents decision fatigue
  • Reevaluate goals and seeing the bigger picture
  • Better stress management

Besides the juicy benefits that breaks have on our brains, now what if you can double the benefits? 

It’s simple – add movement to your breaks.

For those who get the least amount of physical activity, replacing a half hour of sitting time with physical activity was associated with up to a nearly 50% reduction in mortality, according to a new study from the American Cancer Society.

Breaks are a great opportunity to incorporate movement into our workdays to combat the setbacks of a sedentary lifestyle. 

Take a look at the most important benefits of movement breaks:

  • Improve energy levels
  • Boost mood and relieve stress
  • Strengthen weakened muscles and bones
  • Reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease
  • Reduces the risk of injury
  • Boost memory and focus

It’s pretty clear that taking breaks is a powerful tool that can make us better at what we do, feel physically better, and happier. 

High-performing people understand the power of taking breaks and know how to take advantage of effective breaks to become more productive while keeping their health in check.

So, how do you harness the power of taking breaks, so that you come back fully recharged both physically and mentally?

Continue reading to find out the strategy that actually works.

The Secret to Taking Effective Breaks at Work 

Although taking breaks at work might seem even harder when we are working from home and being “accessible” every waking minute, understanding how the brain works and taking the initiative to establish boundaries for effective breaks has quickly become the secret weapon to avoid burnout, improved productivity and personal well-being.

“Breaks are crucial,” says Cal Newport, author of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. “If you’re working day after day and not letting up, you will burn out.”

Understanding the Productivity Cycle 

Our focus, energy, and motivation moves in “waves”. 

Those cycles are known as biological rhythms.

Productivity cycle refers to working for evenly spaced periods of time, and taking breaks at that exact rhythm.

Understanding your productivity cycle can help you take more effective breaks at work. 

“Working for 75 to 90 minutes takes advantage of the brain’s two modes: learning or focusing and consolidation,” says MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Bob Pozen

According to Pozen’s findings, taking a 15-minute break following a productivity chunk allows our brains to better consolidate and retain information. Pozen’s findings echo the findings of research done by Tony Schwartz, the author of The Power of Full Engagement, showing that humans naturally move from full focus to fatigue every 90 minutes

How often should I take a break? And for how long?

There are many studies that have looked at optimal break schedules. Here are some of the most popular, science-supported methods which you could integrate into a workday:

  • Once Every Hour

Taking a 5 to 15 minutes break at the top of every hour like clockwork can get you ahead of the 75-minute fatigue curve. Plus, a top-of-the-hour break is easy to remember and execute.

  • Every 75 to 90 minutes

Following the brain’s “full-focus-to-fatigue” cycle, you can ride productivity waves all the way to the end before refreshing with a break for 5 to 15 minutes.

  • Pomodoro Technique

One of the most common ways to implement a schedule with breaks. Start with a to-do list and timer. After setting your timer for 25 minutes, focus on one task at a time until the timer buzzes. You will mark what you’ve completed before taking a non-negotiable 5-minute break. Enjoy a 30-minute break for every four pomodoros.

  • The 52:17 Method

Work in increments of 52 minutes before 17-minute breaks.

As you can see, all of these techniques essentially follow the same pattern of riding productivity peaks, followed by small breaks – typically 5 to 15 minutes. 

In doing this, we can build up new productivity cycles every 60 to 90 minutes without succumbing to the fatigue that naturally comes without breaks. 

However, how often you should take a break depends on the nature of your work and how your brain functions. Everyone is different. The key is to experiment and find your own rhythm.

Take breaks The Right Way

The Don’ts

Research shows that taking the wrong type of breaks could actually increase fatigue and steal your productivity, such as mindless snacking, online shopping, and mindlessly scrolling on social media. 

It’s also tempting to do some work during your breaks, such as checking your email or the message from your manager. It’s a no-no.

If these are the only breaks you are taking, keep reading to find out how to take breaks the right way.

The Do’s

To reap the maximum benefits of a break, you need to give your brain a chance to relax and your body a chance to recharge. 

The best practice is to incorporate activities into your breaks that bring you joy and positive vibes. 

For example, a short breathing exercise during your break can help lower blood pressure and relieve stress.‍

9 break ideas that boost your health and productivity

  • Simple stretches and mobilization exercises to relax and keep your body functioning, ease stiffness from sitting too long, and prevent injuries.
  •  (Home) office-friendly exercises to wake your sleeping muscles up, boost your energy level, and help you gain focus. Studies have shown that a moderate level of cardio activity can boost creativity and productivity for up to two hours.
  • A short walk outside. Despite the physical benefits, being physically detached from work, and getting some fresh air in your lungs improves your mood and lowers stress.Breathing/meditative exercise helps your body relax and is one of the most powerful ways to relax your brain and regulating your stress response.
  • Nap. If you are working from home, or work at a progressive company that affords you the luxury of taking a nap in the office. Take advantage of that. In several studies, a nap of as short as 10 minutes can improve your cognitive function and decrease sleepiness and fatigue. Having that afternoon slump? Nap it off. Be aware that naps that exceed 20 minutes might leave you feeling groggy and disoriented. It is best to limit your naps to 10 to 20 minutes.
  • Exercise your eyes to prevent eye strain, you can try the 20-20-20 rule.Healthy snacking. Replenish your brain with the right fuel. Here’s a look at some of the best snacks to eat at your desk
  • Talk to someone. Chat with a colleague or a friend (who is also on a break), grab a coffee down the street, take your dog on a walk, call your mom, or play with your kids if you are a parent working from home.
  • Laugh. Yes, go ahead and watch some funny videos of cats. According to a recent study, laugh breaks can improve your performance.

While it can be fun to work some creative activities into breaks, the goal remains the same if you want to maximize cognitive and physical boosts: 

1. Take your mind off work to give your brain a chance to truly relax;

2. Get up from your chair and move around to combat the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle.

The step-by-step guide to make breaks a regular part of your workday

If you’ve read this far, you probably have a pretty good idea of why you need to take breaks, what to do on your breaks and have a strong intention to do so. 

Now you’re thinking, “but how do I implement it to my workday and make it a habit?”

It is surprisingly hard for most people to make the change to integrate breaks into the day, even when it’s something that they intend to achieve.

The problem is that most people fail to follow the instructions that they give themselves.

Let’s be honest, it’s way easier to sit on your chair and mindlessly scroll through your phone, OR, you could be so deep in your work that you don’t have extra mental energy to come up with stuff to do or even think about taking a break.

This is when you need a system to, sort of, automate that part of your day. It’s like having your coach showing up at your door every day at the same time to keep you accountable.

So, how do you design a system that helps you achieve this goal?

The perfect behavior-modification technique for this case is what psychologists call implementation intentions. It is a self-regulatory strategy that has been found to be particularly effective when it comes to situations where there may be immediate costs but significant long-term benefits, such as taking breaks at work. 

An implementation intention supports our goal intention by setting out in advance when/where and how I will achieve this goal.

Here’s how :

Step 1: Specify your goal. For example, “I will take a break every hour at work”.

Step 2: Schedule them in your calendar (the When). Alternatively, if you prefer to work in “sprints”, set a timer on your phone or computer. You can set a timer for 30-minutes, go with the 52:17 method, or whichever time is optimal for you.

Step 3: Plan out your break activities ahead to avoid needing to “decide” what to do when it’s break time, such as “Go for a 5-minute walk at 3 pm” (the How)

Step 4: Follow the cues you have outlined in your plan

As a result, your goal will be performed automatically and efficiently, without conscious effort. 

What we love the most about this technique is that it frees our cognitive resources for other brain-heavy tasks like study & work, since we don’t need to think about when to take a break and what to do for that break. It’s already planned!

Once you take the first step of planning it out, the automated system that you designed helps to remove the hesitation and deliberation when you want to take a break. It’s like putting your breaks on auto-pilot.

And…if you don’t want to go through the hassle of manually scheduling breaks into your workday, or waste your mental energy on coming up with what to do for your breaks, there are tools that are designed to make your life easier.

Follow along.

“Are there any tools that can help me take breaks?”

We are glad that you asked. Yes, there are.

At StretchMinder, we are obsessed with great tools that make life easier. After all, that’s what we believe what technology should be – making people’s lives easier.

Here are 7 hand-picked tools that help you take breaks:

  • StretchMinder – A unique blend of break reminder and 7-minute workout. From putting your breaks on auto-pilot with pre-scheduled breaks to providing guided activity routines including Movement, Breathing & Walking exercises, the app takes care of it all with just a few clicks. It is perfect for those who want the easiest way to build a habit of taking breaks and moving more throughout the day. 
  • Focus To-Do – A app that brings Pomodoro Technique and To-Do List into one place, you can capture and organize tasks into your to-do lists, start focus timer and focus on work & study, set reminders for important tasks and errands, check the time spent at work.
  • Focus Booster – A simple and lightweight timer that automatically records each session. The app features a Pomodoro timer, a mini timer, customizable session lengths, report exports, and manual time entry. 
  • Flow Time – A Chrome Extension to boost your productivity. It works as a Pomodoro-like timer & website blocker that boosts your productivity by making your mind go into the state of flow faster.
  • Google – If you want to keep things simple, just type “set a timer for X minutes” into Google and set your timer.
  • Your calendar – Schedule your break slots and set reminders on your calendar to repeat every day.
  • Your phone – Set a timer with the native timer tool and repeat every day diligently.

Source: https://www.stretchminder.com

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Tanya Dalton

How taking breaks at work increases your productivity We try to work more efficiently and push ourselves at work, leaving less and less time for breaks and space to re-energize. Most people feel they never have enough time to take a quick break, or aren’t allowed to, but break times will boost your productivity and overall happiness. Increase productivity with these break ideas for work or home that are easy to implement. FREE Download: https://inkwellpress.com/breaks WATCH MORE: → 5 Habits to Embrace the Joy of Missing Out: https://youtu.be/DIJXnrmslz8 LISTEN to episode 082 of the Productivity Paradox podcast for more: https://ppx.inkwellpress.com/episode/… READ the Blog: → How to Build in Breaks to Your Work Schedule: https://wp.me/p9ZwEH-Ax → Got 2 minutes? Here’s 25 things you can do instead of scrolling your phone: https://wp.me/p9ZwEH-Av Say HELLO on social: Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tonyadalton… Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/inkwellpress/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/inkwellpress Group: inkWELL Press Productivity Co. – Our supportive, private Facebook group for everything productivity: https://inkwellpress.com/group

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