Not getting enough shut-eye is even more detrimental to work productivity than drinking alcohol, so getting quality sleep the night before a big event is vital if you’re to perform at your best.
A recent study of more than 21,800 UK individuals, commissioned by VitalityHealth, found that productivity is closely correlated to sleep, suggesting an optimum of seven to eight hours.
So what can you do to ensure you sleep tight when a big day looms? Here are 5 sleep hacks to help you get extra those zzz’s.
Turn to technology
Due to hit the market next year, Kokoon headphones incorporate electroencephalogram (EEG) sensors to detect the electrical activity in your brain as you sleep.
Unlike sleep apps, which simply sense how often your bed moves during the night, the headphones track brain waves to determine which sleeping phase you’re experiencing.
The headphones play relaxing soundscapes to help you fall asleep. When you reach R.E.M. deep sleep, the headphones automatically turn on ambient white noise in conjunction with noise-cancelling technology to mask outside noise disturbances.
In addition, the headphones can also determine the best period in your natural sleep cycle to wake you up around your pre-set alarm time.
The retail price for the Kokoon headphones is $319 but you can pre-order them now for $189 on Kickstarter (they can be shipped to anywhere in the world).
Banish your smartphone
While you might feel obliged to keep your mobile within hands reach in the run up to a big event, if you want good sleep, devices should be kept out of the bedroom.
A 2013 Mayo Clinic study found that the bright light emitted by smartphones and tablets can disrupt sleep by interfering with the production of melatonin, a hormone that plays an important role in sleep-wake cycles. And last year, research from Michigan State University found that people who regularly use their smartphones for work purposes after 9 pm are more tired and less engaged at work the next day.
Get sleep in a bottle
You may have already heard about the benefits of taking melatonin tablets to help with jetlag, but a new spray claims to be even more effective at inducing sleep.
Sprayable Sleep is the world’s first topical melatonin spray, created by the same Harvard dropouts who created Sprayable Energy, a topical caffeine spray.
Simply spray the liquid on your neck around one hour before bedtime and a great night’s sleep should be coming your way, say its makers.
Sprayable Sleep enters the bloodstream directly through your skin and attempts to mimic the natural production of melatonin, releasing it gradually during the night.
An oral pill, on the other hand, must first make its way to the liver where most of it is broken down. Because of this, melatonin pills must come in much larger doses – sometimes providing more than 300 times the body’s natural production, which could have long-term negative effects.
You can pre-order a 3-bottle pack now for £25, which is enough for three months if used every night (international delivery costs £10).
According to Dr. Andrew Weil, a pioneer in the field of integrative medicine at the University of Arizona, using the right breathing technique can send you off to sleep in just 60 seconds.
Dr. Weil says his 4-7-8 breathing technique works by bringing more oxygen into the body, which relaxes the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting a state of calmness. The method also helps by distract you from the everyday thoughts that can prevent you from sleeping.
So, how do you do it?
Before you begin, place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth just above your teeth and keep it there throughout the exercise.
Exhale completely through your mouth quite forcefully so you make a “whoosh” sound.
Close your mouth and inhale quietly and softly through your nose for a mental count of four.
Hold your breath and count to seven.
Next, exhale completely through your mouth, making another whoosh sound for eight seconds in one large breath.
Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three times for a total of four breaths.
You can watch a video demonstration of the 4-7-8 technique here.
Have a massage
It is well known that massage can help ease aches and pains and soothe stress, all of which aid a good night’s sleep, but research has shown that receiving a massage also helps boost levels of sleep-inducing serotonin in the body.
Serotonin is a vital component of sleep, triggering the production of melatonin, which helps to regulate circadian rhythms. One such study, carried out in 2000 by the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami, involved subjects being given twice-weekly, 30-minute massages for five weeks. Urine samples were taken to measure levels of serotonin, with all subjects recording an increase.The participants were also asked to rate their quality of sleep against a sleep scale and all reported enjoying improved sleep but if you don’t have time to visit a spa for a professional massage, don’t despair – you can do it yourself at home. Research by the University of Alberta concluded self-administered shiatsu hand massage could work as a non-pharmacology sleep aid, particularly for people with chronic pain conditions. Although only a small study, the participants all reported falling asleep faster and sleeping longer.