When you don’t have enough sleep, your body goes into a kind of shock state. It knows something is wrong and that something that it needs is lacking. As such, it will try to encourage you to get back to bed as soon as you can and it achieves this by putting you into fight or flight.
This is why one of the worst things you can do is to stress about not having enough sleep – you’re just piling stress on top of stress!
But in order to achieve homeostasis – the calm ‘neutral state’ that the body enters when everything is fine – you need to make sure that you are well rested. And this is important because stress is incredibly bad for our health AND productivity. Chronic stress redirects blood and energy away from our digestive systems and our immune systems. It also raises our heart rates and thickens our blood, making us more likely to have a heart attack or stroke even.
And this can even damage your creativity. That’s because we are most creative when we are relaxed and the brain is thereby able to consider lots of different ideas and facts. When we are stressed, we go into a state of ‘tunnel vision’ and can often only focus on one thing at a time. This can lead to us banging our head against the wall, trying the same solution to a problem over and over again.
But what if you don’t have any option? What if you’re a new parent, or you’re jet lagged? How do you get productive even then?
The first aim should be to reduce stress. We do this initially by doing anything we can to lower stress hormones like cortisol. First: stop stressing about how little sleep you got! This creates a vicious cycle that ends with you in an exhausted heap!
Next: restore your blood sugar. This also contributes to stress, but you can fix it by consuming slow-release, complex carbohydrates. A good example is oatmeal.
You can also try supplements. Phosphodiesterase is a fantastic supplement that naturally raises serotonin while lowering cortisol.
Two more tips: if you have the option to nap, take it! This can help to undo some of the damage caused by missing sleep. And finally, try to focus on tasks that don’t require creativity or problem solving. Instead, aim for “zombie” tasks like answering emails.