Time to hit the sack. Get 40 winks. Catch some Z’s.
No matter what you like to call it, getting a good night’s sleep is essential if you want to be a productive, high-producing advisor, says Emma Nicolson, an occupational health and safety specialist with the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety in Hamilton, Ont.
“When you’re tired, you have reduced decision-making ability, reduced ability to do complex planning and your performance declines,” says Nicolson. “It is like you are in a fog – which means you could have an increase in forgetfulness or make critical errors in judgment.”
For example, research suggests that staying awake for 17 hours straight is the equivalent of a blood alcohol level of 0.05. That rises to 0.08 (the legal limit for drivers in Ontario) after 21 hours and hits 0.1 after a full 24 hours.
According to the Mayo Clinic, based in Rochester, Minn., a lack of sleep can also be associated with increased risks of stroke, obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
Nicolson offers the following tips on how to ensure you get a good night’s sleep:
> Set the stage
In order for you to have a refreshing sleep, Nicolson says the right conditions need to be in place.
Because the body’s circadian rhythm takes cues from daylight, the ideal, she says, is to create a dark, quiet and cool place to rest.
How you decide to do that is up to you. For example, you could use blackout blinds or an eye mask to achieve proper levels of darkness. Another option could be to use lighter sheets or have a fan or air conditioner on hand to lower the temperature.
> Develop a routine
According to Statistics Canada’s 2010 General Social Survey, Canadians sleep, on average, for eight hours and 18 minutes per day. Nicolson says that, typically, adults require about 7.5 to eight hours of sleep per day.
Nicolson recommends following a regular routine to help you develop good sleeping habits. Avoid eating a heavy meal shortly before bedtime, get proper exercise and limit your caffeine intake in the hours before you plan to retire.
> Avoid a sleep “debt”
During the height of tax or RRSP season, you will likely be working extended hours. That’s almost a given, but don’t let it become a habit, says Nicolson.
“You may get away with one or two nights of really long hours, but it inevitably is going to catch up with you,” she says.
Consistently over-working yourself will result in a “sleep debt,” which can affect your long-term productivity. In fact, an extended sleep debt could develop into chronic fatigue, which is very difficult to reverse.
“You can accumulate that debt but you will never be able to bank hours,” says Nicolson. “The body doesn’t know how to do that.”
As a result, the best option is the simplest one: make sure that getting a good night’s sleep is a priority.
Good night and good luck.