How to kill your productivity completely

For a while I have been wondering why my energy has been lacking.

I wondered if it was diet, stress, workload, exercise. Of course all of those things are factors, but I couldn’t put my finger on why it was so unusually bad right now.

With the help of my iPhone I think I have found the culprit, or the largest.

My sleep is atrocious.

While I always knew my sleep paterns could be, well, less than optimal, I never expected to see a chart like this one. According to this, once I got to bed I had around 1 hour of actual deep sleep. We all know it is not so much how much time you spend in bed that counts but the quality of sleep you get while in there, and this shows mine isn’t so great.

Sleep Monitoring Gadget

The application is called “Sleep Cycle” (find it in your app store) and uses the sensitive accelerometer in the iPhone to detect your movements and therefore sleep pattern. I don’t know how to read these charts but even I can tell this does not look as it should be.

With lack of sleep we get lack of energy, stamina suffers and so does concentration. Peak productivity can’t be maintained while your body and mind are crying out for sleep.

Of course I have a lot on my mind, what with projects and an immigration to worry about on top of the usual family/business/life stuff, but I am pretty sure my productivity will take a leap once I can fix or mitigate this sleep problem.

Sleep Fix Project

Here are the things I am going to try:

  1. Temperature – Too hot or too cold and I will never get decent sleep. No point in getting proper air conditioning only to leave it in the UK but I can bring up my portable office unit to see if that helps.
  2. Pillow – I have one of those curved, firm pillows that are supposed to offer more spine support. This needs to be examined to see if it is right for me.
  3. Timing – Sleep routine rather than random “keep working until I start nodding off at my desk” would probably help I am guessing!
  4. Brain – Turn off the brain well before attempting to go to sleep to stop the mind continuiing to work long after it should be dozing.
  5. Diet – Eating late or eating certain foods impacts sleep, as does excess or late caffiene/sugar intake. I practically live on coffee, and that needs to stop.
  6. Exercise – IE. get some. I started before our recent trip to Australia and quit while we were away. Use up that adrenalin for something positive.
  7. Daylight – IE. get some. Artificial glow from a computer screen is not a natural light substitute I am told. Strange that. We need sunlight to regulate our body clocks.

What else can I try to improve my sleep? What has hurt or helped yours? Do you get enough sleep? Please share any thoughts you have in the comments ….

Related Posts:

  1. Productivity Tip: Turn Off Instant Messaging
  2. Modern Productivity Inspired by Classic Life Hacks from the Past

About Chris Garrett

Chris Garrett is an internet marketing coach, consultant, speaker and teacher who specialises in helping people build a business around their knowledge, ideas and experiences.


  1. This app is really cool – I can’t believe how much stuff you can do with just a phone! I wonder how accurate it is.

    I don’t usually have a problem sleeping except when I have to get up early, I wake up several times thinking I’ve slept in! I find a cup of hot milk helps – but I’m sure it’s psychological! I heard that you fall asleep once your body temperature starts to drop, that’s why a warm bath or shower helps you go to sleep – it warms you up then you get sleepy as you cool down.
    .-= Jade @ No Longer 25´s last blog ..Aberlour Highland Games =-.

    • I find my sleep is disturbed by being too warm, whereas my wife needs to bundle up as she hates being cold :)

      • Me too Chris – my wife likes it warm, I like it cool. Too warm and I gotta get up and sleep on the floor or something.
        .-= Shawn Christenson´s last blog ..It Wasn’t Me- It Was The One-Armed Man! =-.

      • We’re the same way in our house. Keeping the air at 78 at night, we have a sheet, blanket, and comforter on our bed year-round. I pull the comforter all the way off my half and sweat under the sheet and blanket, even with the fan running if the A/C isn’t keeping up with my body’s tendency to warm up when I sleep.

      • James Spinks says:

        Apparently (according to respected scientific source – QI) women feel the cold more than men — hence women tend to prefer more heating than men…

      • Dear Cris,
        Totally understand your dillema. It’s common that wives & husbands have different sleeping styles. I remember when I first got married our most frequent fight was over the thermostat setting. And after running a linen store for several decades, matching warmth levels appropriately for couples, is a major issue. There are ways around this. Contact me if you would like to work on this.

        Funny now that I’m older. I’m usually the one who gets hot. Comes with the territory when your my age.

  2. Ali Davies says:

    Ok, now this might screw up your experiment entirely but move all electrical equipment away from the bed and preferably out the bedroom altogether. Apparently, electrical equipment can affect sleep!
    A few other things sprang to mind:
    Have a proper wind down routine for at least an hour before going to bed (that doesn’t include TV, work or computers).
    I have also found Meditation very effective.
    Make sure bedroom as dark as possible. Light interrupts sleep quality.
    Hope these are helpful. Good luck.

  3. With that level of restlessness, anyone might think you were planning to move house…
    .-= Malcolm Sleath´s last blog ..Keeping things simple- being lucky and staying positive =-.

  4. Marta says:

    I have heard about moving the electronics out of the room, thought about it…. but haven’t done it yet. ;)

    What I have done however is start using white noise to help with my wind down routine. A fan, soft music something that will help the mind to start to slow down and not be running a thousand miles a minute. It has helped me quite a bit, and yeah the nodding off at the desk as a sign it is time to go to bed, I’m working on that one too.

    • Getting my brain out of work mode is a struggle. Every moment I spend away from my computer I tend to be checking my email on my phone. Even my book now is an iPad. :S

      The white noise/music idea is interesting as I often get eye strain headaches so that could help both issues :)

  5. LoneWolf says:

    I have sleep apnea, so I know first hand what sleep deprivation can do. Before I got the proper therapy (CPAP) to help me breathe properly I was exhausted 24/7. I could sleep at the drop of a hat and sleep for hours, but the sleep quality was abysmal so I never really rested.

    If you have trouble with snoring or if you seem to stop breathing for a few seconds then you might want to get it checked by your doctor to make sure it isn’t apnea.

    CPAP therapy isn’t the greatest thing in the world, but it sure beats being exhausted. Someday I may consider surgery although I’ve heard that most people develop the same problem again after the surgery anyway.

    • I do have a snoring problem and I suspect apnea, though I am afraid of having anything done about it. One of the reasons for the Canada move and the choice of Calgary is I often have less of a sinus issue in a drier climate.

  6. Drugs. Lots of drugs.

    Just kidding. ;o)

    I’ve used this guided imagery CD to get to sleep on nights when I’ve been tossing and turning, with good results. The voice is low and pleasant, and the music relaxing.

    Also, just a couple/few minutes of deep breathing as the last thing you do before sliding under the covers. I’m seeing a biofeedback specialist right now and learning this stuff–basically, you focus on breathing slowly (without forcing anything) from your belly, not your chest, letting the exhale be long and the inhale just happen spontaneously when your body needs air again. At first my mind resists like crazy, but if i stick with it I calm down a lot and feel really grounded in my body. It’s definitely helping.

  7. David Week says:

    Hi Chris. I recommend this 4 minute video:

    “In today’s world, balancing school, work, kids and more, most of us can only hope for the recommended eight hours of sleep. Examining the science behind our body’s internal clock, Jessa Gamble reveals the surprising and substantial program of rest we should be observing. (Recorded at TEDGlobal 2010, July 2010 in Oxford, England. Duration: 4:01)”
    .-= David Week´s last blog ..Finding a job in development =-.

  8. Great conversation. Have a friend who also swears CPAP also changed her life. I suspect I need a sleep study too. One thing I know has messed us up is the Select Comfort King we bought. Neither of us like it, and I’m sure that the next few months will find us trying to give the bed to someone else & buying a new bed. No science here, but I’m guessing that liking your bed is conducive to sleep.

  9. Pace Smith says:
  10. Apparently this is a super popular topic. So I covered it in a blog post called How to Sleep in homage to the excellent Nigella Lawson How to Eat cook book:) It was quite well read. I would say get up at the same time every day NO MATTER WHAT (I know how you love caps:) and no electronics for an hour before sleep time. That means NONE.

    Anyway, hope to see you at BlogWorld. I’m going to Vegas!! Will be super tired as only arriving from Aus the day before. Now if someone could write a post called How to Sleep on a Plane in Coach Class I’d love to read that:)
    .-= Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot´s last blog ..Why Social Media Rules- Readers Sponsor My Trip to BlogWorld in Vegas =-.

  11. I’ve had a sleep disorder for years and have spent a lot of time looking into this, so I may go off on one a little here, the way this app works is based on movement, not on actual sleep patterns, that means that it could be adversely effected by a partner sleeping in the same bed, restless leg syndrome etc, which wouldn’t actually comment on the quality of your sleep. Sleep specialists do use movement monitors, but more to detect sleep / wake patterns rather than to look at the quality of sleep at all (i.e. they use them to check you were going to bed when you say you are).

    Additionally not getting a lot of deep sleep may not be a bad thing, you will dream more when you are doing a lot of mental problem solving (so students dream more when studying) and you get more deep sleep when you are highly physically active.

    Not really any answers there in terms of improving your quality of sleep, but hopefully a little more info on what the app is saying. Would be curious to see what it says over a longer period.

  12. This works for me.

    Take a little bit of window open, add some white noise (radio 4 on a low vol does the trick – on auto turn off) then add a notebook and pen by the side of the bed for the AAAARGH whizzy head need to do that moments = hey presto something like a proper kip.



  13. Murlu says:

    Ya know, pointing this out really does make me want to be a little more sleep conscious. I have mild insomnia so I’m up at 6:30am and generally get sleep around 3am – 3 hours a night!

    I think it’s mainly because I grew up in such a high information environment and never want to miss out on the world. Coupled that with working full time and with freelance work; I have to keep at it.

    Another alternative to try out would be polyphasic sleeping. Instead of the core 8 hours people usually strive for, you’re breaking it down into short naps throughout the day instead – think of it almost like a diet of small proportions instead of one big meal.

    I did it while in high school and college – it’s stuck with me. I bet an app like these would really help you manage it!
    .-= Murlu´s last blog ..Your Comments Suck And Destroy Good Blogs =-.

  14. dhawktx says:

    Melatonin 2 hrs before you want to be sleepy. Works a champ and has me yawning my eyes out.

  15. Secret to a Happy Marriage:

    Ever try drinking Chamimile tea nw some honey before bed? That might help too.

  16. Okay – i thought that the picture of the graph itself was going to be the answer to what would kill my productivity – as graphs tend to have that affect on me!

    One thing that blew me away about sleep was that it has such a profound affect on weight gain. Instead of kicking my butt in the gym, my trainer first made me start getting enough sleep because – she told me – that was one of the biggest reasons I had gained weight. (Sleep hint: Don’t eat any carbs three hours before going to bed.)

    And it worked!
    .-= Christine Kane´s last blog ..When Life Gives You Lemons- Make 18K =-.

  17. Evan says:

    If other approaches don’t work there is a very radical one that worked for a friend of mine who had insomnia for about 15 years.

    It is reducing your amount of sleep until you fall asleep naturally. (You need to go to bed at the same time). Then add more sleep until you go to sleep naturally and wake up refreshed.

  18. Neurofeedback is cutting edge technology that mirrors back to brain what it’s doing so that, given that information, the brain can self-correct. You lie in a zero-gravity chair and listen to ambient music while the equipment reads your brainwaves through a few small electrodes. It’s SO relaxing and profoundly effective!

    This is non-linear healing that trains your brain to create new neural pathways that can dramatically eliminate anxiety and sleep issues. What I’ve described is a particular model of neurofeedback and if you want to know where to find someone who does this work, I’m happy to help you.

    Sweet dreams!
    .-= Lisa Zimmerman´s last blog ..New Moon in Virgo – Sept 8- ’10 =-.

  19. Hi Chris,
    I went through a phase where I had trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. It did a number on the way I felt physically, but also it made me feel really depressed just from feeling so lousy all the time. Stress and anxiety can impact your sleep profoundly. So can alcohol. The fact that you are in the midst of a move could be disruptive to you and interfere with your sleep. Meditation tapes have helped me (listen as you are trying to fall asleep). If you have sleep apnea, you can get a device that you wear that blows air into you when you stop breathing. For the short term, there are sleeping pills and anti-anxiety medications that can help you catch up on sleep so you can function until you straighten our your sleep pattern. I would start by addressing the most probably cause of the sleep problem first, and then move your way down the list. It may take some time, but you will figure it out. (You can also have a sleep study done that might help you figure it out.) Be good to yourself while you are working on this. I know how draining lack of sleep can be.

  20. Wow what an effective and neat way to engage in ones sleeping patterns. You’l get back on your feet sleeping wise. Just break th pattern. Easier said then done, none-the-less, a necessary evil.

  21. Dave Doolin says:

    I’m just coming off a week with very little sleep, and it pretty much destroyed all my momentum.

    As it turns out, the amount of sleep I need is also related to the number, novelty and intensity of emotional stressors operating simultaneously. From experience, if all systems are “go,” I can get by very easily with 5 or 6 hours per night. But if I have a lot of LMS (lesser mortal sh^Htuff – viz. Halbert), I both require more and suffer from insomnia… at the same time.

    Taking care of the stressors usually improves the sleep and reduces my need.

    You mentioned turning off the brain helps you, and I find the same. Usually, I read fiction to slow everything down.

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