Lack of sleep has been found to impair decision-making, communication, and memory by twenty to fifty percent.i Further, sleep deprivation results in a forty percent deficit in the capacity of your brain to concentrate, focus, learn, and retain; all crucial things for lawyers.ii Studies have found that being sleep deprived results in the same cognitive impairment as being legally drunk.iii Maintaining one’s mental well-being requires that your body is well rested.
- Set the Environment. Create an environment conducive to restful sleep. Remove all distractions from your bedroom such as tv’s and computers, instead use your bedroom primarily for sleeping. Keep your bedroom cool (60-67 degrees), eliminate any noise that can disturb your sleep, and eliminate all light. Setting the right environment indicates to your body that it is time for rest and sleep.
- Increase Bright Light Exposure. Exposing your body to natural sunlight or bright light helps normalize your circadian rhythm, our body’s alarm clock that controls when we feel alert and when we feel tired, which can improve daytime energy, as well as quality nighttime rest.
- Eliminate Blue Light. In order to maintain your circadian rhythm, eliminate blue light at night. Blue light, which comes from electronic devices from smart phones and computers, can trick your body into thinking that it is still daytime.
- Set Your Phone to Do Not Disturb It is easy as attorneys to feel as if we need to be connected twenty-four hours a day; however, this need for connectivity can not only lead to increased stress but also sleep deprivation. Utilize your phone’s do not disturb feature to eliminate the alerts and calls on your phone during a certain time period. If you are too tempted to check your phone throughout the night, move your phone across the room so that you will have to get out of bed to check it.
- Be Consistent. Create a sleep schedule. Got to bed and wake up at the same time everyday including weekends. This helps regulate your internal clock.
- Avoid Caffeine. Avoid caffeine late in the day. Caffeine can provide several benefits throughout the day but if consumed too late in the day, it can stop the body from naturally relaxing at night.
- Exercise. Exercise can reduce the time it takes to fall asleep, wakefulness, and anxiety. Exercise can increase your quality of sleep. However, avoid exercising too late at night because it can increase alertness and endorphins, making it more difficult to sleep.
- Avoid Heavy Meals. Heavy meals late in the evening can lead to indigestion which make it difficult to sleep. Try a light snack about forty-five minutes to an hour before bedtime to satisfy any late-night food cravings.
- Wind Down. It is important to relax and calm your mind before bed. If you are still working shortly before bed your body will have difficulty shutting off. Participate in a calming activity before bed such as reading, meditation, writing in a journal, or taking a relaxing bath or shower.
- Don’t Stay in Bed If You Can’t Sleep. If you can’t sleep, leave your bedroom and do something relaxing until you feel tired; however, avoid the temptation to do work. Lying in bed awake can create an unhealthy association between your sleep environment and wakefulness.
i Love, Hallie. Positive Psychology for Lawyers—The Science of Sleep. Bar Bulletin. September 23, 2016; 54(38): 8.
iii Williamson A, Feyer A. Moderate Sleep Deprivation Produces Impairments in Cognitive and Motor Performance Equivalent to Legally Prescribed Levels of Alcohol intoxication. Occup Environ Med. 2000 October; 57(10): 649-655.