World Sleep Day: Boost productivity by sleeping your way to success

16 March,2024 08:06 AM IST |  Mumbai  |  Maitrai Agarwal

Wellness expert Luke Coutinho explains how deep sleep boosts productivity and creativity, and delves into how sleep impacts your overall physical and cognitive health

Image for representational purposes only. Photo Courtesy: iStock

Subscribe to Mid-day GOLD

Already a member? Login

For unlimited access to all the articles

International Sleep Day, also known as World Sleep Day, is observed annually on the Friday before the Spring Equinox. The purpose of this day is to raise awareness about the importance of sleep and its role in maintaining good health.Whether you are a light sleeper or a heavy sleeper, this day is a reminder to prioritise your sleep and take steps to ensure that you get the rest you need to stay healthy and happy. On International Sleep Day, we speak to Integrative lifestyle expert Luke Coutinho who delves into how sleep impacts your overall physical and cognitive health, shares tips, and more.

How does deep sleep impact cognitive function and productivity?
Coutinho: Deep sleep has every connection with impaired cognitive function and productivity. Every other consultation of mine is with a patient who is sleep-deprived, and at least 1 out of 4 of them is suffering from brain fog, grogginess, headaches, low mood, and memory issues due to this. They blame it on age, and while it's normal for every organ to undergo a gradual decline in its function, the fact is that even young men and women are going through this too.
When talking about productivity, we chase time management, the Pomodoro technique, enhancing focus, cutting out distractions, and guzzling beverages like tea or coffee to ‘alert' our brain. And while all of that is fine, we seldom tap into a deep rest.

Also Read: World Sleep Day 2024: Sleeping naked is good for health? Expert lists down surprising benefits

Ever experienced how hard it gets to think, execute, innovate, memorise, and just be in a positive frame of mind with even one night of less sleep? Hence, our capacity to manage emotions and anxiety the next day decreases. What does this mean? There is power in sleep.

What is the connection between deep sleep and creativity?
Coutinho: We are likely to wake up with brain fog, forgetfulness, and grogginess when we are sleep-deprived, which can ultimately lead to a lack of creativity and productivity. While we can go on consuming walnuts, omega-3, and other brain-boosting syrups and concoctions to enhance our cognitive health, we also need to take a step back and ask ourselves:

Am I sleeping well enough?
Research has revealed the deep interrelation between chronic sleep loss and declining brain function. While we may put sleep on the back burner to attain more, work more, and earn more, our body isn't concerned about our social or professional commitments. It needs sleep, which is the fundamental requirement of our body.

What physiological processes occur during deep sleep that support cognitive function?
Coutinho: Have you ever wondered when your brain detoxes? And when does it clean itself up of all the residues and wastes? The brain is not an elimination organ, but every organ has its wastes, and the brain has an interesting mechanism of swiping itself clean when we are in deep sleep. There is nothing much, just the fundamentals so our body's intelligence can defend us.

Our brain undergoes crucial cleansing processes while we sleep. Just like the lymphatic system, which is our body's garbage disposal unit, our brain has a cleverly designed glymphatic system that aids in getting rid of its metabolic wastes from distress, over analysing, and information overload. Our brain is continuously producing these toxins, and an overload of these can cause mental exhaustion. And what activates the glymphatic system? Deep sleep.

Also Read: Fixing sleep cycle crucial to dodge diabetes, obesity, heart diseases: Doctors

When we sleep, our brain shrinks, and that is a good thing because it then creates space for the cerebrospinal fluid to enter and wash out the wastes and protein particles such as beta-amyloid plaques found in the brain of an Alzheimer's patient. Excess beta-amyloid plaque formation and accumulation intrude the communication between neurons, causing memory loss, slurring of speech, slow movements, hesitation, and more. Toxins breed disease, and it is the same case with your brain.

How does the quality of deep sleep affect problem-solving abilities?
Coutinho: We are likely to wake up with a lesser threshold and resiliency towards stress when we are sleep-deprived. We are more vulnerable to things, emotions, and situations and even the slightest things can trigger us or make us irritable and snappy. Our body is more likely to ‘react' than ‘respond'. Our actions are mostly driven out of emotions, rather than from a space of thinking and rationality. We become more problem-oriented than solution-oriented.

How does deep sleep contribute to memory consolidation and learning, and how does this affect productivity?
Coutinho: Deep sleep acts as a backstage crew for memory and learning, playing a key role in boosting productivity. Picture your brain during deep sleep like a busy workshop. Different teams (neurotransmitters and hippocampus) work together, solidifying memories and strengthening the brain's circuits for learning.
In a recent study in 2023, researchers found that during deep sleep, your brain fine-tunes these memory-related activities. Think of it as a rehearsal where your brain practices and strengthens connections, making memories stick around longer.

Also Read: ‘Should I take the HPV vaccine?'

When you wake up, this well-rehearsed brain is ready for action. Your memory is sharper, processing information becomes quicker, and problem-solving gets a boost. So, deep sleep isn't just a snooze; it's like a superhero for your brain, gearing it up to tackle the challenges of the day and supercharging your productivity.

Are there any specific stages of deep sleep that are particularly important for productivity and creativity?
Coutinho: While all stages of deep sleep contribute to overall cognitive function, research suggests that the third stage, known as slow-wave sleep (SWS), is particularly crucial for productivity and creativity. Slow-wave sleep (SWS) is the specific stage of deep sleep that is often considered particularly important for productivity and creativity.

Also known as deep sleep, this stage typically occurs in the first half of the night during a full sleep cycle. It's most prevalent during the earlier part of the night, particularly in the first three sleep cycles.

SWS is characterised by slow and high-amplitude brain waves, reflecting the deep and restorative nature of this sleep stage.
During SWS, the brain engages in synchronised neural activities that play a role in memory consolidation, learning, and problem-solving skills. This stage is believed to be essential for refreshing and optimising cognitive abilities, and creative mindset, and enhancing productivity when individuals are awake.
This goes to say how important it is to focus on the quality of sleep so we can sleep deep enough to be able to reach this crucial stage.

How does deep sleep influence mood regulation, stress reduction, and subsequently, productivity?
Coutinho: Deep sleep significantly influences mood regulation, stress reduction, and, consequently, productivity. During this crucial sleep stage, the body releases growth hormone, which aids in physical restoration and the repair of cells. Simultaneously, the brain engages in activities that contribute to emotional processing and regulation.

Research has shown that deep sleep plays a role in regulating mood by influencing neurotransmitter levels. Adequate deep sleep helps maintain a balanced production of serotonin and other mood-regulating chemicals, contributing to emotional well-being.

Moreover, deep sleep is a key player in stress reduction. It allows the body to recover from daily stressors, both physical and psychological, through hormonal balance and the restoration of energy reserves. This stress-reducing effect has a ripple effect on mood, promoting a more positive and stable emotional state when we wake up the next day

When individuals consistently achieve deep sleep, they are better equipped to manage stress, maintain a positive mood, and, ultimately, enhance their productivity during waking hours.

What strategies can individuals employ to improve the depth and quality of their sleep for better productivity and creativity?
Coutinho: A key element for achieving deep and restful sleep is maintaining a consistent bedtime and wake-up time. This helps manage the circadian rhythm, aligning the body's internal clock with natural light-dark cycles. Establishing a routine improves the quality of sleep by promoting a stable sleep-wake cycle, enhancing overall sleep hygiene, and contributing to a more restorative rest. You want to keep your wake-up and bedtime as consistent as possible. An erratic timing will never allow our body to set a routine, which is everything for a sound sleep.

What practical steps can individuals take to prioritise deep sleep while maintaining a balance between work and personal life?
Coutinho: Adequate deep sleep enhances memory consolidation, problem-solving skills, and overall mental clarity, contributing directly to on-the-job efficiency and effectiveness. Prioritising deep sleep requires a proactive approach and personal responsibility to work on habits and the way we plan out our day.

I always tell corporate employees that you do not have 24 hours in a day. You have 24 minus 8 hours because you want to set aside at least 8 hours for that deep rest. Now plan out your day, meetings, work, workout time, leisure time, and entertainment within those 16 hours. If we do not do that, unfortunately, our sleep bears the brunt.

Here are practical tips for prioritising deep sleep while maintaining work-life balance:
Set clear boundaries
Establish physical and mental boundaries at work to delineate professional time from personal time.

Effective time management
Prioritise tasks, allocate specific time slots for work and adhere to a well-structured schedule.

Minimise distractions
Identify and minimise time-wasting activities or distractions during work hours for improved productivity.

Disconnect ritual
Develop a ritual to transition from work to personal time, such as a brief walk or a calming routine to signal the end of the workday.

Conducive sleep environment
Create a comfortable and conducive sleep environment with proper lighting, comfortable bedding, and a cool room temperature.

Relaxation techniques
Incorporate relaxation techniques before bedtime, such as deep breathing or meditation, to promote a calm state conducive to deep sleep.

But it all starts with an individual responsibility and prioritising sleep. If sleep is given a high value, all of the above is attainable. If sleep is thought to be a waste of time, none of these tips will ever work. Start with a mindset change, first.

"Exciting news! Mid-day is now on WhatsApp Channels Subscribe today by clicking the link and stay updated with the latest news!" Click here!
health Health And Wellness wellness fitness Lifestyle news lifestyle
Related Stories