Earlier this year, Healthy Hospo arranged a questionnaire about sleeping habits for the bartending community. They got 842 answers from 40 countries. The numbers are alarming: only three percent of the respondents got the recommended eight hours of sleep and more than 16 percent slept less than 5 hours a day.

– Sleep is our natural and most effective form of medicine. It is how both our body and mind recover from the stresses placed upon them every day, explains Tim Etherington-Judge, the founder of Healthy Hospo organization.

Poor sleeping habits might cause depression, heart disease, cancer, anxiety and weight gain. There are many misbeliefs about sleep amongst the bartender community. It is often taken for granted and seen as valuable time wasted.

– Sleep should be seen as mental and physical recovery.

Understand your rhythm

The natural rhythm of people is determined by what our body wants to do and when. Between 6am and 8am there is a rise in blood pressure and alertness. These hours were some of the best times for hunting back in the days, so it is only natural that our alertness is on its highest level then.

– Also melatonin secretion stops which makes it more difficult to fall asleep.

Between 9.30pm and 11pm our body starts to prepare for sleep by suppressing the bowel movements. This is also the time when our blood pressure and body temperature are on their highest. Lowest body temperature on the other is between 3.30am and 5am. Deepest sleep dates also on those hours.

The problem is that when a human should be sleeping their deepest sleep, bartender still cleans the bar after their shift. And when the body starts to wake up, bartender has just fallen asleep.

People do have different rhythms though. About 70 percent of bartenders are so called night owls. They tend only wake up with an alarm and usually skip the breakfast. They are also most alert during evenings and take daytime naps. Morning larks on the other hand wake up naturally around 5–7am, are on their most alert at midday and have less daytime fatigue. They cope worse with jet lag and shift work. According to Etherington-Judge, it is important to recognize your own chronotype.

– The rhythm of morning lark is not optimal for a bartender. I would recommend considering a career as a barista instead.

Think cycles, not hours

Traditionally sleep has been counted in hours. If you do not sleep eight hours, you have failed and that is it. Etherington-Judge prefers to talk about cycles instead of hours. Sleep actually has different phases and the minimum time to get through them all is 90 minutes. So instead of trying to sleep 8 hours straight, you can divide your sleep in 5 cycles of 90 minutes.

 Tim Etherington-Judge and Pauliina Marjanen.

– You can for example sleep 6 hours during the night and take a 90 minute nap during the day and get the same benefits as 8 hours of sleep.

Etherington-Judge highlights that it is not only important how much you sleep but also how you sleep. By creating a pre-sleep and after-sleep routines, one can improve their sleep quality. He recommends to turn off all the tech appliances one hour before going to sleep. Lowering the temperature of the room where one sleeps is also a great way of preparing for sleep, as is dimming the lights before hand.

– A quick yoga session before sleep is good for sleep quality also.

After waking up it is better to give ones brain a mental challenge instead of browsing the phone straight away. Light exercise prepares the body for awakening.

Hack your way to a better sleep

There are some hacks that help to gain better sleep quality and recover.

– I like to use nasal dilator at home and when I sleep. It helps with nose breathing and prevents snoring. There are also aroma sprays that help both fall asleep easier and relieve stress.

You can even go as far as illuminating the insides of your ears with a “human recharger” device. A good quality mattress and pillow is probably a better investment, though. The size of the bed matters too: the bed for one person should optimally be 120cm wide and for two people 240cm.

By improving your sleeping environment, you can easily improve your recovery and also perform better at work and in life in general.  

– Sleep is a foundation of health and everyone should make it a priority.