Making a big career move is a stressful endeavor. When seeking a new career or changing positions within your company, worry can disrupt your sleep. This poses some serious challenges, particularly if you are continuing your education as well.
Sleep is necessary to function at the top of your professional game. Lack of sleep can reduce productivity, brain function, and other soft skills necessary to advance your career. How can you improve your ability to sleep while pursuing such a stressful change?
Stress and Sleep
Making critical shifts in your professional life will cause some anxiety. Stress about a new job, a new field, and a new workplace can keep you up at night and disrupt your sleep in other ways.
How does stress impact your sleep? It elevates cortisol, which is the body’s stress hormone. This elevation can stop you from falling asleep easily as your brain struggles to turn off. You may also frequently wake up in the middle of your sleep cycle.
Most adults require 7 to 9 hours of sound sleep. This number can vary depending on your body but it is very rarely less than that. If you are not getting adequate amounts of sleep most nights of the week, you can suffer many of these sleep-deprivation problems:
- Poor memory
- Cognitive difficulties, like the inability to think clearly
- Making errors that can impact everything from your job to your driving ability
- Decreased productivity
- Mood issues, such as having a quick temper
Poor sleep can also impact your physical health. This condition has been linked to increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and even weight gain. As you seek to improve your professional life, you want to avoid these challenges.
The first step to creating a foundation for better sleep during a career change is learning how to reduce your stress.
Reducing Career-Related Stress
When transitioning to a new field of work, there are some things you can control that will make the change easier. These can reduce your anxiety about the process.
Proper planning beforehand helps you to stay relaxed as you search for jobs so you can remain focused. There are several things you can do:
- Don’t take rejection personally. Sometimes there are many candidates for a single position.
- Track your success. Just making it to an interview can be counted as a win.
- Keep applying. When there is a great deal of competition for a position, this will increase your odds of getting chosen.
- Start networking within your field. If you want to work in a particular field or company, build connections with those people.
- Get support. Talk to someone you trust about your stress over getting a new job. You can also join a support group for job seekers.
If you are already at the interviewing stage of your career shift, preparing for this discussion will help you sleep better. Review the job requirements and find the matching skills on your resume. Then practice the talking points that highlight those skills.
Go over any case studies of how you helped solve the problems that relate to your new job. This can apply even if in a different industry. Remember that hiring managers want to see your problem-solving abilities. You should frame your current experience to showcase this.
When returning to school to enhance or completely change your field, make smart choices to manage the added stress of pursuing a degree. For example, to become a nurse you must complete nursing school and become certified to practice. Plan to reduce the stress of these expanded responsibilities with these steps:
- Carefully plan your calendar. Break down your daily routines to fit your work and school schedule, making sure to include time for adequate rest.
- Join a study group to stay motivated. This support system can be a great help in learning and networking.
- Determine your academic goals. What grades do you want to earn? What organizations can you join at school that will help your career?
Planning for different outcomes will help you manage your stress, no matter what career change you are making. In addition, you can also cultivate better sleep habits.
Improving Your Sleep
While you can’t eliminate the stress of a big professional move, you can take some simple actions to improve your chances for a good night’s sleep.
Eat lightly at dinnertime.
Heavy meals or junk food too close to dinner can weigh on you, causing discomfort as you lay down for bed. It may disrupt your digestive system as well, leading to indigestion. Don’t give in to bad food choices when you’re stressed out.
Instead, eat a light meal at night. Later you can relax with a cup of chamomile tea or other warm beverages that do not contain caffeine.
Avoid screens and loud music before bed.
If possible, avoid TV and other smart devices at least an hour before bed. Research shows that these screens can disrupt our sleep patterns. Artificial light from these devices can impact the cells in our eyes. This confuses our circadian rhythms, our body's internal mechanism that tells our brains to feel sleepy when it’s dark outside.
Loud music, too, can be jarring, especially if you are using headphones. Only listen to soothing music, tones, or sounds at a low volume before bed.
Do relaxing activities before bed.
A simple way to fight stress before bed is by doing more relaxing activities. These can include meditation, a low-impact workout like yoga, or reading. Be sure to read books that are not stress-inducing, such as horror or suspense since this can elevate your blood pressure.
If you struggle to meditate, download a relaxation app that walks you through guided meditations. You can also use a white noise app or machine to help you fall asleep.
Create an atmosphere that encourages sleep.
Artificial light or sunlight, if you have irregular hours, can disrupt your sleep as well. Keep your room as dark as possible. If outside light comes into your bedroom, try room-darkening shades or light-blocking curtains.
Make sure that your pillow and bed properly support your neck and back. Keep your bedroom at a moderate temperature for a better chance of staying asleep. Following these simple steps every night before bed can help you to achieve better sleep habits.
Making a major career change can be intimidating and stress-inducing. By taking action to prepare for the challenges you will face, you can reduce worry and anxiety. Adding a relaxing nighttime routine will give you the best chance of getting a good night's sleep to help you succeed in your professional life.
If you are in a pattern of sleepless nights that are negatively affecting your health, your family, or your career, connect with the Alaska Sleep Clinic for a free consultation. Our sleep medicine specialists offer the help needed to get back on track with a quality, healthy night’s sleep.