Is insomnia affecting your dental career?

Insomnia is affecting many people's careers. Is it affecting yours? This is what to do about it.
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In today’s globalized and “always-on” working culture, we are usually spending more time in the office, often to the serious detriment of our sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, chronic sleep deprivation is very prevalent in the workplace. Around 25% of U.S. adults suffer from insomnia and show regular patterns of excessive sleepiness.

Many of us are hesitant to discuss this issue with our coworkers or friends, yet we hardly ever manage to get the sleep we desire. Being in an ever-busy profession, hygienists can find themselves suffering from insomnia or sleeplessness.

Don’t get this wrong; Dental hygiene is an excellent career, but at times, the demands that come with shift work and working at multiple dental offices where there is never-ending pressure to perform can impede the ability to get adequate amounts of sleep. In fact, The Cleveland Clinic approximates 10-40% of shift workers experience shift work sleep disorder (SWSD) — a circadian rhythm disorder linked to insomnia due to working a “non-traditional” schedule. 

How much sleep is enough?

The National Sleep Foundation suggests most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep every night. Sleep deprivation can briefly be defined as staying awake too long or missing a night’s sleep, but can also be cumulative. Sometimes, losing even two or three hours of sleep every night can add up and eventually can have considerable effects on your physical and mental wellbeing. Actually, research has shown that sleeping only six hours per night for ten consecutive nights might hurt your productivity.  

Causes and symptoms of insomnia

The gist of insomnia may be summarized in one word: sleeplessness. The causes of insomnia are virtually infinite. Acute insomnia — a short disruption in sleep for one or two nights — is widespread, and several factors cause this kind of insomnia. Anything from anxiety or stress to spending excess time on your gadgets before bed to using cold pills may lead to a bout of sleeplessness.

Chronic insomnia — recurrent sleep deficit — may be caused by a range of issues. They include:

  • Lifestyle/sleep patterns (untraditional/irregular sleep patterns)
  • Medical conditions such as arthritis, asthma, nasal allergies, or chronic pain
  • Emotional distress — depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder 
  • Dietary habits — consuming too much alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, etc

Here are signs and symptoms that you may be battling insomnia:

  • Difficulty remaining asleep
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Fatigue or daytime sleepiness
  • Waking up too early in the morning
  • Behavioral problems, such as being aggressive or feeling impulsive
  • Decreased attention span
  • Mood swings, anxiety, irritability, and difficulty in concentrating
  • Poor work performance

The relationship between sleep and work performance

You likely don’t need stacks of scholarly evidence to agree that a poor night’s sleep can hurt your productivity at work the following day. One study established that 70% of sleep-deprived employees are unable to concentrate in meetings, 68% attest they take longer to do tasks, and 65% cannot invent original ideas.

In 2019, researchers from the University of South Florida also found that losing 16 minutes of a single night’s sleep might be the difference between having an excellent day at the office or a miserable one. A poorer-quality night’s sleep was associated with a higher occurrence of cognitive issues and stress levels.

What’s more, a study involving over 4,000 U.S. workers revealed that those who didn’t get enough sleep or had insomnia spent a larger portion of their workday on time management, compared to  their deeply-sleeping counterparts.

Thus, if you suffer from insomnia, a decrease in productivity can be the difference between getting that life-changing role and wobbling through your career without any notable progress. Unless that is acceptable to you, you may need to seek ways to achieve quality and better sleep.  

Beating insomnia and getting work back on track 

While it is not easy to alter your work schedule, there are lifestyle changes that you can implement to lessen the effects of insomnia. A multimodal approach involving sleep hygiene measures, healthy diet, exercise, and enlisting social support can help ease insomnia symptoms. Check out the following tips to learn more on this:

Have a consistent sleeping routine

As soon as your day’s temp assignment(s) or shift is over, try to go straight to bed. Most importantly, try to establish a consistent sleeping routine. Yes, it is possible to set your body’s internal clock. When bedtime comes around, you will be ready to sleep. This consistent routine is healthy and can help your body wind down.  

Take control of your career

Never overstretch yourself and avoid taking on more roles when you are booked solid. You now have the ability to plan your schedule to be accommodating and flexible, the way you want. Via a job-matching platform like Cloud Dentistry, you can decrease or increase your work hours to suit whatever is currently going on with your life.  

Exercise right 

As long as you are not exercising an hour or two before going to bed, some simple workout activities, such as cycling, swimming, walking, or aerobics, can significantly improve your sleep. Working out helps reduce stress. More so, it helps reset the sleep-wake cycle since it elevates body temperature and tires  you, making you spend enough time in the deep, restorative stages of sleep.  

Watch what you eat

Nobody loves to sleep on an empty stomach; however, overindulging in alcohol or food doesn’t help you improve your sleep. For example, caffeine and nicotine are stimulants; hence, if you are struggling to sleep, it is advisable to curb your intake of those.

Alternatively, have a high-protein snack like a handful of almonds around one hour before getting to bed to nourish your body with the nutrients it requires for a sustained sleep. 

Conducive environment 

Ensure your room is dark and cool to help ease you into sleep. You may need to add a fan, sound machine, heavy curtains, or room-darkening shades to create the necessary ambiance for you to stay asleep.

If you need light to navigate around safely, install a dim nightlight in the bathroom or hall. This will make it easier for you to get back to sleep.

Set boundaries

Let others know what time you are going to sleep so that they can give you the privacy you need. Request those who live with you to refrain from performing noisy tasks such as washing dishes, watching TV loudly, or vacuuming while you are asleep. Set your smartphone on “do not disturb” or silent mode to prevent your screen from lighting up repeatedly with new messages, emails, or phone call notifications.

Seek help from a specialist

If the above behavioral approaches or measures aren’t helping you, a sleep specialist can prescribe sleep aids to induce slumber or other forms of medication to promote wakefulness.

Final thoughts: you can overcome insomnia

Sleep and performance at work are directly entwined. You cannot expect to achieve the latter without putting in the right amount of uninterrupted sleep consistently. Pinpoint the issues you think are preventing you from enjoying quality sleep and try to work on them. Don’t let insomnia thwart your efforts of becoming the best hygienist you could be.

All the best and have a restful sleep next time you go to bed!


Written By Sandie