As a member of an industry notorious for being sleep-deprived, we are constantly trying to improve the conditions and environment of not just the agency but those around us.  With International Sleep Day coming up on the 16th of March, let’s take this time to recap on how important sleep is.

Having adequate sleep is key to having a healthy lifestyle; key benefits include improving memory, reducing stress/anxiety, and even weight loss. Research also shows that creative individuals typically do not get quality sleep and may sleep later and longer. This could explain why we have a very grouchy creative department and a colleague who is always running late. While it is recommended for adults to have seven to nine hours of sleep daily,  some of us are lucky to even get five hours in dreamland, especially during pitching season and when deadlines are suddenly pushed forward. Anything less than seven hours adds to your sleep debt or sleep deficit.

Understanding Sleep Debt

According to US National Sleep Foundation, losing 2 to 3 hours of sleep for a few nights can be as bad as staying up all night. Some of us may try to compensate the hours we spent on working overtime or pulling an all-nighter by sleeping in on weekends but this more often than not, throws us off our regular sleep schedule, which makes things much worse. Unlike your credit or mortgage, sleep debt accumulates but can never be ‘repaid’, not even by a Lannister.

What eventually happens is reduced productivity at work because Sandman, like an ignored obsessive girlfriend, will not let it slide. We’ve all been in meetings where we struggled to keep ourselves from yawning or dozing off, no doubt, dry pitches and long speeches also contribute to the torture. It only gets worse when it comes to brainstorming for exciting ideas and creative campaigns because neither can one’s mind concentrate nor does it have the adequate energy to think out of the box. When this situation persists or worsens, not only is productivity jeopardised,  our overall well-being is also compromised.

To Nap or Not To Nap

Is it better to push through the sleepiness to get work done ASAP or should one catch a power nap at the desk? 

In Japan, napping is even considered a subtle sign of diligence, with the implication being you worked yourself into exhaustion. In Spain, there’s Siesta, an old tradition where you would take a 2-hour nap/break after lunchtime due to the hot afternoons during the summer. Companies such as Google, Uber and even Ben & Jerry’s also have designated nap rooms and pods in their offices for their employees to recharge.

“Daytime drowsiness can affect mood, productivity, and creativity, but a brief nap may provide greater alertness for several hours to help improve attention, concentration and accuracy,” says David Neubauer, M.D., associate director of the Johns Hopkins Sleep Disorders Centre.

Nonetheless, it is still not a common workplace culture to sleep on the job and there are also sources recommending one against napping during the day for fear of sleep pattern disruption, especially when one already has trouble sleeping at night.

Tips to Maintain a Healthy Sleep Cycle

#1 Get Some Sun

To ensure you don’t fall asleep at the wrong time, get some Sun. Melatonin from the sunlight helps to heighten alertness so have your breakfast or morning coffee outside or by a sunny window or go for a morning jog before heading to the office. To optimise Sun exposure at work, keep your curtains and blinds open during the day or try to move your desk closer to the window. For offices with little access to natural light or rigid desks allocation, taking intermittent outdoor breaks would also be a viable solution. Just remember to apply some sunscreen!

#2 Get in Bed

It’s all about the ideal sleep environment. This includes keeping your bedroom cool and well-ventilated and investing in the perfect bed for you. On top of getting the right mattress firmness, foam toppers, and pillows, those who are desperate for a good sleep or just itching for some pampering can also try a deep sleep-inducing pillow spray. Lastly, reserve your bed only for sleeping. Avoid watching TV or doing work on the bed, so your brain will only associate it with sleeping and it will make it easier to wind down at night.

#3 Get Proper Suppers

Going to bed hungry is perhaps one of the worst choices aside from going to bed after a huge feast. So, if one really need to have supper before turning in, make the right choices. Instead of ordering fast food takeaways, try a sensible amount of fatty fish ( eg. salmon ), oatmeal, banana or simply some chamomile tea with honey. Our director swears by warm milk with crushed almond for some healthy doses of Trytophan and Melatonin.

Hopefully these tips can help you in your never-ending quest of repaying your sleep debt.

Sweet dreams!