To Improve Sleep, Give Work Drama a Rest

Sleep is a big deal when it comes to productivity. The National Sleep Foundation reports that getting enough sleep can improve your performance on the job in a number of ways, from making better decisions and fewer mistakes to recovering from distractions faster and preventing burnout.

Yet a survey of 1,000 people from mattress-review company The Sleep Judge suggests that many employees are losing sleep because of various stressors in the office. Among people who reported that work issues affect their rest, the top causes of sleeplessness were work-related drama (otherwise known as office politics), project deadlines, delivering presentations and meeting with management.

While both men and women ranked these as their top sleep-preventing situations, more women than men (57 percent versus 45 percent) are tossing and turning about drama, while slightly more men than women (48 percent versus 45 percent) are sweating deadlines. Presentations are keeping men and women up in about equal numbers (34 percent versus 33 percent), while women are more concerned than men about meeting with management (34 percent to 30 percent).

What’s more, the study found that people who described their jobs as “very stressful” reported sleeping less than six hours per night on average, compared to the nearly seven hours per night enjoyed by those who describe their jobs as minimally stressful. National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours.

[See: 16 Low-Stress Jobs.]

Middle managers registered the most difficulty sleeping due to work drama, deadlines and presentations — more than entry-level workers or even C-suite executives. And once people managed to fall asleep, these same workplace problems often became the stuff of nightmares, with 31 percent of those surveyed saying they had literal nightmares about work drama and 21 percent about deadlines. Topping the list of nightmares, though, was getting fired, with one in three people having this particular bad dream.

All of this is bad news for people who want to stay focused and productive at work — that is, if you don’t take steps to counter these predictable stressors. The fact is that politics, deadlines and giving presentations are all standard operating procedure in the workplace.

So instead of letting fears of these commonplace problems keep you awake at night, why not take some simple steps to start combating your most difficult professional stressors? Here are three tactics that can help you gain control of your emotions during your workdays for more peaceful nights of rest.

Dial back the drama.

While office politics may not be completely avoidable, how you respond to drama and gossip is up to you. Those who thrive on creating drama and spreading negative news need listeners to spark their flames. If you immediately remove yourself from this role, you’ll protect yourself from getting swept up in the situation.

Even if you hear a rumor about a colleague’s drama or become aware of a growing political circumstance, do yourself a favor and don’t pass it along to the next person. When people see you’re not interested in taking part, they’ll move on to the next co-worker, and you’ll be spared this negativity, which can work its way into your nightmares if left unchecked.

[See: The Most Important Allies to Make at Work.]

Manage deadlines early and often.

It’s understandable that the thought of missing deadlines frays nerves, but this doesn’t have to be the case if you are very proactive about how you manage your deadline schedule. True, you can’t always make decisions about when a particular deadline will land, but you can try to push back about unreasonable deadlines, citing concrete evidence about why you need more time.

Many office deadlines are internal ones that may be adjusted if there’s a good reason. If you communicate clearly with key players throughout the process, you may find that you’ll be rewarded with additional resources, staff members or time to help you reach your goal without spending the evening worrying about it.

[See: 9 Ways to Use Extra Vacation Days.]

Learn presenting skills to boost confidence.

Surveys show more people report fear of public speaking than of death. Part of this comes down to lacking the skills to excel at giving a presentation. Not everyone is a natural public speaker, and even those who are comfortable talking in front of a crowd can benefit by learning techniques and strategies to present effectively.

Invest in developing this capability, perhaps by taking a public speaking course or joining Toastmasters International, where you can receive instruction and practice in a supportive environment. That will help you eliminate much of the stress that comes with giving presentations.

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