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World Sleep Day is March 13: AWA offers ways to improve decision-making, problem-solving and memory

March 13th marks World Sleep Day, an annual celebration of sleep organized by the World Sleep Society. Its aim is to lessen the burden of sleep problems on society through better prevention and management of sleep disorders. 

Research by Advanced Workplace Associates (AWA), in partnership with the Center for Evidence-Based Management, has identified the factors that most impact cognitive performance. Sleep is high on the list.

Sleep helps the brain work properly. When we are asleep our body is busy repairing muscles, consolidating memories, releasing hormones and regulating growth and appetite. If sleep is cut short, the brain and body do not have time to replenish and we wake up less prepared to concentrate, make decisions, or engage fully with the world.

Cognitive performance research studies conclude that sleep deprivation has a negative impact upon almost all brain functions such as decision making, solving problems, remembering things, controlling emotions / behavior and coping with change. Reaction times may be slower, more mistakes may be made, and tasks often take longer. All of these will impact mental performance and employee relationships at work.

“Manage stress. Having too many things on your mind can disrupt sleep,” says Andrew Mawson, director, Advanced Workplace Associates. “There are many ways to address stress, depending on the source. For example, writing down the things that are on your mind may help “park” them for tomorrow. Further, turn off electronic devices like tablets and phones as changes in light can kid your body that it’s time to wake up.”

AWA is a science-based workplace transition practice that is interested in human performance. Here are its tips on how to get a better night’s sleep to improve performance:  

  • Develop a regular sleeping schedule –Go to bed and get up at the same time. This can help establish a routine, reinforcing the body’s sleep-wake cycle.
  • Create a bedtime ritual – experts believe that doing the same things each night tells your body that it’s time to rest. Warm baths, reading or listening to relaxing music eases the transition between wakefulness and sleepiness.
  • Avoid heavy meals, stimulating activities, alcohol, caffeine and nicotine before bedtime.
  • Exercise can help prompt you into a restful night’s sleep, but only if you do it during the day (not in the late evening).
  • Minimize light and noise when trying to sleep – turn off electronic devices like tablets and phones as changes in light can kid your body that it’s time to wake up.

To find out more about sleep and the other factors that impact cognitive performance, visit AWA’s Cognitive Fitness Archives.