How to Get Better Sleep Despite a Demanding Schedule

February 15, 2022

Struggling with getting enough sleep while balancing your busy schedule? Here are actionable ways you can finally get the shuteye you’re looking for.

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If you’re here, you know that lack of sleep can feel all-consuming. 

You despise those nights where you need sleep the most, yet somehow, your brain runs a million miles an hour and you can’t get that shuteye. 

We’ll say it: It’s not natural to keep up the facade that you approach work well-rested every day. 

Know that you’re not alone if getting sleep is a big challenge in your life. 

Heck, we wrote this resource on sleep because it’s one of the biggest hurdles remote workers have reported during Kona check-isn. We spoke with sleep experts and people leaders to help those who are on the road to better sleep. 

Why aren’t you sleeping?

Whether it’s an anxiety-ridden upcoming presentation or endless weekly to-do’s keeping you at work late, a lack of sleep can be an accumulation of many different factors. 

First, write down why you think you aren’t getting enough sleep. Detail your pre-sleep rituals, sleep and wake-up times, and external factors that impact your sleep hours. 

What steps can you take towards better sleep?

Next, brainstorm what you can do to counteract each point on your list. Here are some actionable steps you can take towards better sleep. 

1. Document your to-do’s and where you left off

Have you ever laid in bed reciting tomorrows to-do list in your head?

As you think about your personal and professional schedule, it can increase anxiety and decrease your ability to fall asleep. 

Try to avoid these last-minute late-night thoughts by leaning on documentation. We use Notion to document the progress we’ve made towards tasks, so we don’t need to start every day recalling what happened last. Here’s the Notion template that we personalize for our work flow. 

In the “doing” column, we organize to-do’s in order of importance for the next day. Therefore, we can start our day with a list versus relying on our memory. 

2. Talk to your manager

This might not be what you wanted to hear. Especially if your manager hasn’t created a psychologically safe work environment. 

But chances are that if they activated Kona in Slack, they’re trying to. 

Speak up to your manager about how you’re not getting the sleep you need and suggest ways where you and your manager can work together to change that. 

Request a lighter workload, a mental health day, help on a project, or even a couple of hours for a nap. Feeling sleep deprived is unsustainable, so the sooner your manager knows, they’ll be able to lend a hand before it turns into burnout. 

3. Ensure a sleep-friendly environment

Are you doing everything you can to make your bedroom sleep-friendly?

Here are tips for creating a sleep-friendly bedroom:

  • Invest in blackout curtains to eliminate any natural or artificial light outside.
  • Keep the temperature in your bedroom to 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18.3 degrees Celsius).
  • Keep your phone in a different room and invest in an alarm.
  • Keep earplugs and a silk sleep mask in your bedside table to counter unexpected distractions.

It might take time to get accustomed to no phone on your bedside table, but you’ll thank yourself when it leads to fewer sleepless nights. 

4. Engage in activities that release endorphins

Are you in a cycle where you’re too tired to work out?

Well, that notion alone could be leading to your lack of sleep. Endorphins are chemicals in the brain that keep some people awake, but they can be released with exercise

Weave exercise into your schedule by going on a walk during your lunch break or trying an at-home fitness class before you sign into work. Whatever you do, set a routine and hold yourself to it. This one change could make the difference between getting a full night's sleep or not. 

5. Rest when you need to rest

Do you have those days where you’re trying to power through, but don’t actually make progress?

In these moments, realize when it’s time to take a break. 

Dr. Tasha Holland-Kornegay, Licensed Mental Health Clinician, recommends that employees take that break when they need it. “Dodge the post-lunch dip and take a small nap” she said. 

She went on to explain, “While our body follows the 24-hr circadian rhythm, there is something called the chronotype that picks the time when people are sleepy or active. If you are among the 15% of people who get drowsy after lunch, you ought to take a 30 minutes nap.”

There’e no shame in the nap game, so stop feeling guilty if you need a midday siesta. Try to be open with your boss and colleagues when you need to sign off for a bit. 

6. Put a hard stop on technology 

Do you start your day and end your day with your phone?

That could be taking a damaging effect on your sleep. 

Your phone stimulates the brain to make it more awake. Not only that, but the distraction of having a phone in bed with you can delay you from trying to fall asleep in the first place. 

Try something different tonight. Put a book or a journal in your bedside table. When it’s time to go to bed, engage in reading or writing 30 to 60 minutes before you shut the lights off. 

7. Be honest in your Kona check-ins

Kona is there to help your colleagues and managers understand how you approach work every day. Leverage it with honesty. 

If you’re feeling tired as you approach work, select “yellow” or “red” with an emoji and one to two sentences of context. You might be surprised by how that simple task could trigger your team to support you in a way you haven’t experienced before.  

TL;DR: Talk to your manager about your lack of sleep and work together to adjust your demanding schedule. You’re a valuable employee and your sleep health shouldn’t be put on the back burner. 

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