How improving your sleep can boost your career

Apr 5, 2020

Could a great night’s sleep be the key to nailing that job interview or securing a promotion? Phil Lawlor, a Sleep Expert with mattress specialist Dormeo, certainly thinks so. In this article, Phil explains why good sleep hygiene is fundamental to career success and shares a few tips on how you can wake up refreshed and ready to face the day. 

We all know that we feel much more energetic after a solid night’s sleep. But, did you know that getting enough rest every night could be the key to career success? According to a study carried out by researchers at UC San Diego and published on the Sleep Doctor, participants who increased their sleep by just one hour each night enjoyed salary increases of 16% — a pay increase that would usually require over a year of education or training to achieve. So, it’s not just about the hours you put in at work: prioritising your sleep can have a big impact on your performance, too.  

Here, I’ll outline how healthy sleeping habits can help boost your performance in your new role or during job interviews, as well as share my top tips for getting better rest. 

The benefits of quality sleep  

But first, what’s the science behind our sleep, and how can it help you to perform better during interviews or at work? Getting the right amount of sleep has four main effects on our brains: 

  • It boosts memory and recall skills: Quality sleep is essential for memory consolidation because it helps our brains to store and organise information. So, if you need to memorise lots of answers for an important interview, be sure you’re not skipping valuable sleep to do so. 
  • It improves judgement: It’s easier to make rational and logical decisions when you’re well-rested. This is especially important during those crucial early years of your career, when you need to be able to think on your feet during graduate job interviews, or when you’re trying to stand out in your role to land your first promotion.
  • It makes it easier to concentrate: According to a UCLA study, our brain cells communicate less effectively when we’re sleep deprived. That’s why concentrating on a complicated task seems so much harder when you’ve had a late night. 
  • It boosts your mood: As anyone who’s ever been a bit grumpy before their morning coffee will know, feeling well-rested can help you to have a positive attitude and outlook in the workplace, which is something that employers will be on the lookout for during placements and grad schemes.

To sum it up, sleep pays dividends in the workplace, because a well-rested brain is more productive, alert, and focused. So, it really is essential that you’re taking the necessary steps to achieve a healthy sleep pattern. 

woman sleeping in a bed
Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

How to optimise your sleep habits to boost your career

Whether you’re a recent graduate hunting for a job, or you want to succeed in a new role, good sleep hygiene can help boost your chances of career success. Here, I’ve shared five things that you can do to improve your sleep habits.

Aim for 7–9 hours a night 

First things first: you need to try to make the time for the right quantity of sleep. The Sleep Council recommends that adults get around 7–9 hours per night. Generally speaking, younger people need more sleep than older age groups, so don’t be surprised if you need closer to 8 or 9 hours to feel well-rested. 

That said, we’re all individuals, so listen to your body. If you feel energetic and well-rested with just 6 hours every night, and struggle to sleep in longer than this, there’s no point stressing yourself out trying to get an extra hour so you can hit the ‘ideal’ amount each night. 

Stick to a sleep schedule 

Once you’ve worked out how much sleep you actually need, set a time for going to bed and waking up each day — and be strict with yourself about sticking to it. This trains our brains to feel sleepy at the same time every evening, allowing you to drift off quickly and stay soundly asleep through the night. Plus, sticking to a consistent sleep schedule will make it much easier to wake up early, meaning you’ll feel bright and refreshed in the morning, rather than tired and groggy. 

If you’ve spent the last few years at uni sleeping in late, pulling all-nighters in the library, and partying a little more than you should have, suddenly shifting your body clock to meet the demands of a 9–5 job can seem like a tall order. But learning to fall asleep and wake up at the same time every day is perhaps the most important thing we can do to improve our sleep hygiene. So, while it might be tough at first, being strict about going to bed at the same time every night will soon start to pay off. 

Create a bedtime routine 

If you’re finding it difficult to drift off at your appointed bedtime, you may need to think about what you’re doing in the hour or so before you go to sleep. Creating a relaxing bedtime routine — and sticking to it — will help to train your brain to switch off at the same time each evening. So, find something you can do to get yourself ready for bed each evening, like reading a book with a cup of herbal tea, taking a hot shower or bath, or even doing some gentle yoga before bed. 

herbal tea with a lemon slice
Photo by Lisa Fotios from Pexels

Perfect your sleeping environment 

The ideal sleeping environment is dark, quiet, cool, and comfortable, so make sure your bedroom is optimised for a great night’s rest. Outside light — either from streetlights or the sun during the summer months — can seriously disrupt our body clocks, so it’s well worth getting some blackout blinds or curtains fitted to create a perfectly dark environment. If you’re in rental accommodation and that’s not possible, try using a good quality sleep mask, instead. Ideally, the temperature should be 16–18°C, so open a window or use a fan if it’s a bit warm.

You’ll also need to make sure your mattress and pillow provides enough support to keep the spine in alignment. If you’re stuck with an old, lumpy mattress in your rental, adding a mattress topper can be a simple yet cost-effective solution that won’t damage your deposit. 

Banish blue light before bed 

Most of us are glued to our devices 24/7 these days — it’s pretty much a fact of modern life. But, electronics like phones, TVs and laptops all emit a form of bright blue artificial light that can be very disruptive to our sleep. This is because the LEDs used in screens imitate bright natural daylight, which confuses our body clocks and interferes with our natural circadian rhythm — even after we’ve turned our devices off.

The easiest way to counter this is to ditch your devices in the hour or so before bed. So, if your usual bedtime ritual involves bingeing Netflix or scrolling on your phone until you fall asleep, consider swapping them for a screen-free activity, like reading a book, or doing some meditation. If this isn’t always an option for you, you could also consider buying blue-light filtering glasses or installing apps that reduce the glare from your phone or laptop screen. This way, you can still use your devices to prep for a big day (or finish one last episode of your favourite show) without it taking a toll on your sleep. 

While getting 8 hours of sleep is unlikely to result in an instant pay rise overnight, there’s certainly a lot of evidence to suggest that a healthy sleep pattern can give you the best possible chance of doing well in your career. So, take my tips on board and you’ll be ready to impress at an interview or in your new role. 

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