How to Sleep Less and Better for Improved Productivity

by SleePare

By Dustin Morgan | 5 minutes Minute Read

Imagine a world where you sleep less and better for improved productivity throughout the day. According to sleep hacking pros, it’s not only possible, there's scientific proof. Just a few small adjustments to your daily routine will help you boost your body’s natural resources to net deep REM sleep at night, high-energy through the day, and a focused, low-stress mindset around the clock.

Who doesn’t want to sleep soundly, wake refreshed to power through an intense workday unscathed? Keep reading for twenty hacks to help you sleep sound, work harder and feel refreshed, always. You can also skip ahead to our handy infographic!

1. Harness Your Natural Sleep Cycle

Understanding how to capitalize on each phase of your sleep cycle will not only lead to a better, deeper sleep, it may even shave an hour or two off your current sleep schedule. Using this tip you actually sleep a little less but wake refreshed. For some background information, here are the four stages of sleep.

  1. Stage One: This phase is (on average) around seven minutes long. It starts within seconds of fully dozing off and is a light sleep to prep your mind and body for what’s to come.
  2. Stage Two: Lasting about 20-35 minutes, this phase lets your mind and body fully relax and rejuvenate. If you’re a power napper, this is the stage you want to wake up AFTER.
  3. Stage Three: In this phase, you are out cold — you’re less likely to be aroused by outside stimuli at this time. During phase three, there’s no eye or muscle movement. Waking up during this cycle is a recipe for being cranky and groggy.
  4. Stage Four: This is the stage your long, intense day has been waiting for — REM sleep. It begins about ninety minutes after you fall asleep and is critical for mind and body.

So, how do you take advantage of stage four for improved productivity? You listen to your body.

Have you ever woken up five to six hours after going to sleep and feel wide awake, but since it’s still two hours before the alarm clock goes off, you force yourself to go back to sleep? If this happens, you know that is a time your body is rested enough to wake.

Your body is saying, I’m good. Let’s get this day started. Try it. If you feel good throughout the rest of the day, try training your body to wake up at this time every day. Magically, you have two more hours added to your schedule.

2. Block Out Bright Lights

A recent study reported people who live in more densely populated areas that are lit at night with bright street lights or signs are more likely to report trouble sleeping — even the smallest amount of light can slow melatonin production.

So unless you want to miss out on your much-needed REM sleep and sabotage your big morning meeting, avoid any sort of light that could interfere with your sleep.

Block bright lights with blackout curtains, limit ambient light and avoid turning on bathroom lights in the middle of the night.

3. Turn Off Tech

Put the phone down! Studies show 95% of us use some form of technology before bed at least a few nights a week.

Tech inhibits falling asleep by stimulating the brain. Add in a work email that stresses you out and you now risk losing sleep. Avoid tech induced sleep trauma by powering down at least thirty minutes before bed.

4. Brain-Dump Before Bed

If you're regularly spinning an intense day in your head before you doze off or trying to make a to-do list you may have trouble falling or staying asleep! Process the day before going to bed for a much more relaxing sleep.

So that you feel prepared to let yourself relax, take some time before bed to hash out the day, make to-do lists, and clear your mind of all work and life woes.

5. Cut Out Caffeine and Alcohol 

I get it, by the end of the day your brain is warped. You need a happy hour drink, ASAP. Or a cup of coffee to get dinner on the table and the kids to bed.

Studies show that consuming either of these substances within four hours of sleep can decrease the quantity of slow-wave sleep and REM sleep by increasing the number of awakenings you experience during the night.

Additionally, alcohol stimulates the body when metabolized during sleep and can exacerbate sleep apnea. So, if you must have coffee or a cocktail, proceed with the understanding that too much caffeine or alcohol late in the day may sabotage your sleep.

6. Prepare Your Body For Sleep

Have an extra early meeting and need to fall asleep fast? Soak in a warm bath. A cozy bath promotes relaxation while the quick cooling the body experiences after the bath boosts the release of melatonin by mimicking the body's natural preparation for sleep.

Then set the thermometer to help you keep your cool, the optimal temperature for sleep is between 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit. Conversely, temperatures above 75 degrees and below 54 degrees can disrupt bedtime.

7. Weight Down Your Worries

There's a reason weighted blankets are all the rage. Studies show they work! Weighted blankets promote a calmer, deeper and longer sleep.

Across the board, adults and children showed a significant improvement in decreased anxiety, calm sleep and waking energized from the use of weighted blankets. Who doesn’t need that before a crazy busy day?

8. Visualize The Goal

Getting in bed and staring at the ceiling won't get you anywhere. Try visualizing your goal — sleep. Studies show visualizing yourself asleep can actually make it happen!

Focus on times you've felt deeply relaxed and peaceful to promote calm and reduce anxiety. Don’t knock it until you try it. Instead of thinking about your crappy day, think about your happy place.

9. Quit Counting Sheep

If you're considering counting sheep, don't. Worrying about how long you've been lying awake can backfire and perpetuate insomnia. Instead, get up and sit in a relaxing chair, read a boring book or listen to slow music until you feel tired enough to return to bed.

10. Consult A Sleep Specialist

If you regularly feel fatigued during the day or can't seem to get restful sleep, consult a sleep professional. Don’t keep dragging through your days jacked up on coffee and vending machine sugar. Most sleep disorders can be treated relatively quickly and effectively.

11. Soak up the Sun

Studies show exposure to sunlight or very bright artificial light in the morning causes nocturnal melatonin production to occur sooner, leading to sleep more easily at night.

When you let in bright light, it permeates your brain with signals to wake up and start being productive. Within thirty minutes of waking, soak up the sun or very bright light for a few minutes and instantly experience the difference in your morning energy levels.

12. Sustain Your Brain

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day for many reasons. By breaking your overnight fast, you’ll sustain your brain and tell your sensors it’s all systems go.

Don’t think coffee and a donut will always do the trick. When you have a productive day ahead, oatmeal, eggs, nuts, fruits and veggies are the way to a great day. Without those essential nutrients needed to power through the day you’ll basically be running on empty.

13. Try Mindful Meditation

Before you doze at your desk, try a meditation nap. This includes five minutes of mediation at your desk for a quick energy boost. Studies show that it really works! You will be blown away by how much more awake and energized you feel after a short, mindful recharge.

You can either download a meditation app or try the following:

  • Stretching your legs, curl your toes, breath deep, then exhale.
  • Stretch your arms over your head and breath deep in and out.
  • Spend three minutes with your eyes closed, focusing on your breath.
  • Shut out outside noise and distractions. Envision yourself relaxing on the beach, in a hammock, or on a blanket at the park. Breath deep in through your nose and out through your mouth.

14. Exercise Early

This may come as no surprise, but exercise is one of the main factors in productivity. Studies link exercise to better slow-wave sleep — a deep state when the body and brain rejuvenate.

While it may seem like you don’t have time to exercise, your body needs it! Try starting with 15-20 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise at least two hours before bed. It will stabilize your mood and decompress your over-stressed mind.

15. Hydrate All Day

Proper hydration is just as important for sleep as it is to your day. Have you ever woken in the night with a dry mouth, itchy throat or leg cramps?

That's a sign you're going to bed dehydrated. Keep a water bottle full and at arm’s length all day. Then at night, put it down before eight o'clock so you’re not up all night skipping to the loo.

16. Pick Peaceful Paint

The color of your bedroom walls can affect sleep patterns as well as mood. Studies found the best colors for promoting sleep and better waking mood were shades of blue, yellow and green. The most disruptive colors were purple, brown and grey.

17. Experiment With Essential Oils

Essential oils have been used since the beginning of time to heal just about everything, illnesses, brighten the mood, and effectively treat sleep disorders. All-natural and void of the lasting sedative effects of modern medicine's take on sleep-aids.

A few drops of lavender, roman chamomile or rose oil can quickly settle you into a calm frame of mind, and deep, restful sleep.

18. Kick The Cancer Stick

Just one of the many, many reasons to quit smoking — nicotine sabotages sleep. Every single night after smoking!

Nicotine suppresses REM and slow-wave sleep by causing the body to regularly wake and stir in the night from withdrawal symptoms and experience respiratory issues.

19. Supplement Your Sleep

If your sleep pattern has been interrupted by a shift change, late meetings for a big project or jet lag, try an herbal sleep supplement like magnesium, melatonin or GABA. All three help with early sleep onset and improve sleep quality until you can get back on track.

20. Color Code Your Day

Want to stop stressing about all the things you have to do and what to do first? Color code your schedule. Once you have a full snapshot of your day, go back with highlighters and color code things by priority.

  • Red: Very urgent tasks — these should be tackled immediately.
  • Yellow: Get this done before the end of the day
  • Green: Last and least important.

By color-coding your day, you know what needs to be done to be highly productive and feel relaxed and accomplished at night.

Sleep Hacking Benefits

Experts in sleep medicine have linked poor sleep to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and depression. With so many different ages and stages in life, there’s no set number of hours one should aim for each night.

The goal is to make your sleep as deep and relaxed as possible to wake refreshed — that way you can function optimally on less sleep. That being said, don't think you can incorporate all the sleep hacking tips above into a four-hour power down and avoid health issues. Harness your REM sleep, boost your days and relax at night and your productivity will go through the roof!

One important thing to remember — if your mattress makes you toss and turn, toss it! Increased frequency of awakenings may prevent transitions to the deeper stages of sleep. You can try all you want to promote a good night's sleep, but if you’re waking frequently to readjust your position, you'll need to find the perfect mattress before you can improve sleep and productivity.

infographic with tips that show how to sleep less and better

 

Dustin Morgan

Dustin Morgan


Dustin is the lead content creator at SleePare. With a degree in Computer Science and extensive experience reviewing mattresses, curating comparisons and advising on "best of" guides, he's truly a mattress technology expert.

Dustin has perfected this method by personally testing over 200 different mattresses, so he's not only able to discern the overall value of a specific bed, but to assign its value to different types of sleepers.

Along with creating honest and straightforward mattress features, Dustin enjoys creating pieces aimed at helping people get their best sleep ever.

When he's not creating helpful content, Dustin enjoys jogging, fishing, hunting and playing video games in and around his Virginia home.