The good news: You don't have to really get all this brain science to do something about your sleep problems.
The reason sleep is so important is because fatigue isn't simple. When we are tired, our performance doesn't degrade equally. Instead, when you lose a night's sleep, the parietal and occipital lobes in your brain become less active. The parietal lobe integrates information from the senses and is involved in our knowledge of numbers and manipulation of objects. The occipital lobe is involved in visual processing. So the parts of our mind responsible for understanding the world and the data around us start to slow down. This is because the brain is prioritizing the thalamus--the part of your brain responsible for keeping you awake. In evolutionary terms, this makes sense. If you're driven to find food, you need to stay awake and search, not compare recipes.
After 24 hours of sleep deprivation, there is an overall reduction of six percent in glucose reaching the brain. (That's why you crave donuts and candy.) But the loss isn't shared equally; the parietal lobe and the prefrontal cortex lose 12 percent to 14 percent of their glucose. And those are the areas we most need for thinking: for distinguishing between ideas, for social control, and to be able to tell the difference between good and bad.
Check out the best tips to make sure your night is a productive one.
1. Wind down late in the day. A recent Harvard Medical School study recommended that you schedule your day so the more time-consuming and intensive tasks are addressed in the morning. Leave the easier, less pressing tasks for the evening so your mind and entrepreneurial drive and cool down before bed.
2. Create a cut-off time. "Decide when you will stop working each day, no matter what," writes Inc.'s Jeff Haden.Every night set a goal time to wrap up all your tasks for the day. This may leave a few loose ends, but stick to it. If you leave things unfinished work on them right when you wake up--refreshed. Make a list before you go to sleep for the following day.
3. Track your sleep and be consistent. "By measuring how you sleep it's much easier to see how different factors affect you, and then you can use that knowledge to help optimize your sleep quality," writes Haden. At least track your sleep for a while so you become cognizant of your sleeping patterns. There are tons of apps available to keep tabs on your sleep. Even just a sleep journal can be beneficial. This will make you more aware of the sleep (or lack of) you are getting and will help you establish healthier patterns. Try to stick to scheduled sleeping and waking times.
4. Don’t worry about sleep. Seriously, don’t stress over your sleep schedule. Don’t stay awake watching the clock take away potential shut eye moments. The Harvard sleep study recommends that if you find yourself unable to fall asleep after 15-20 minutes in bed, take a break. Get out of bed and read with a dim light until you find yourself tired. Don’t change when you are supposed to wake up because you couldn’t fall asleep.
5. Don’t forget about the quality of your sleep.According to the Harvard study (and common sense), you should create a good environment for you to fall asleep--and stay asleep. Make sure your bed is comfortable and your room is dark and quiet. Use a sleep mask, earplugs or a white noise machine to compensate if your sleeping environment is less than ideal.