Podcast thumbnail image featuring circular photo of Christopher Barnes. Purple title text reading "Conversations on Careers and Professional life". White text on a purple gradient that reads "How sleep impacts work and the workplace with Prof. Christopher Barnes."My sleep hasn’t been great for years. I never have trouble falling asleep, but I wake after about 5 hours and then have trouble getting back to sleep.  I average about 7 hours of sleep a night, sometimes more, sometimes less (an improvement over a few years ago). A few years back, after hearing author Matt Walker talk about his book, Why We Sleep on a podcast (watch his TED Talk), I went down the rabbit hole (not for the first time) on ways to improve my sleep. I’m happy to report, that it many ways, it has gotten better and my relationship to sleep has as well.  I write this as a preface for why the topic of this episode is so important to me. Sleep is important for mental and physical health, and for the quality of our work product, our relationships, and the broader work environment as we’ll here from my guest, Professor Christopher Barnes.

Christopher Barnes is a Professor of Management and the Michael G. Foster Endowed Professor of Management at the Foster School of Business. His recent research over the past few years focuses on sleep and its impact on work, ethics, decision making and work place engagement. His research has been featured in the Foster Business Magazine, Harvard Business Review, and a TEDx Talk

I’ve long wanted to have Professor Barnes on the podcast, somewhat selfishly, because of my own interest in — and challenges with sleep. In April of 2022, I invited him to present to faculty and staff as part of my work on the Health, Wellness and Professional Development Committee at Foster, and after that, I knew I what he had to say would be important to my listeners.

We discussed how sleep hygiene can improve sleep:

  • Stick to a schedule for wake time and bed time.
  • Avoid alcohol, caffein and nicotine too close to be time, up to 12 hours prior for caffein.
  • Use your bed for just two things, sleep and sex. 
  • Don’t stare into your smart device screen before bedtime,
  • We briefly touch on his research on Blue-light filtering glasses, and we discussed one reputable supplier, Swanwick Sleep.
  • I’ll add: keep your bedroom dark and cool. Consider lowering the lighting in your house in the hour or two before bed
  • Get bright  (preferably natural) light upon waking. For those of us in the PNW, you might want to get a “happy light” for these dark winter months, and use it for 20 minutes upon waking. (I have one from Verilux.)

Some other important resources:

If you suffer from insomnia or sleeplessness, the best experts now recommend avoiding sleeping pills. From my reading, the jury is out on Melatonin except at low doses for short periods of time (like around dealing with a time change). One reason why sedatives and melatonin aren’t great is that while they will bring on sleep, they disrupt the best kind of sleep for your brain, deep wave sleep. I learned about this from Matt Walker, so if you want to learn more, follow the links in the first paragraph, or check out this three-part podcast

The gold standard is now Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia, or CBT-I. You can even get apps and online programs to that deliver CBT-I therapy, some are actually FDA Approved. Chris mentioned Sleepio.  There is also a free email based program from Insomnia Coach that I found helpful.  There are some supplements that can help with sleep, but you should talk to your doctor about taking anything regularly for help with sleep, whether it is over the counter, or prescription.

Chris also mentioned Arrianna Huffington’s book, The Sleep Revolution (you can watch a talk she gave for Talks At Google, or read an interview with her), Dr. Nathaniel Watson (also at UW) and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

There is also a great recorded talk from the Whole U Speaker Series with Dr. Michael Vitiello on Getting a Good Night’s Sleep.

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