Project Management And Sleepless Nights

Project management and sleepless nights, what can you do?

Project management and sleepless nights may be a common relationship for some. We explore how project management can have an impact on sleep quality and some of the medical conditions that can be associated with stress and lack of sleep.

Restless Legs and Project Managers 

First of all what is Restless Legs?  And why project managers?  Well Restless Legs is thought to affect around 10% of the population, and many more people on an occasional basis, particularly when stressed or overworked.

Have you ever laid awake at night, and get the urge to move your legs to get comfortable, and then once awake, the thoughts of the day start to intrude into your mind?  Well it may be a neurological disorder rather than a bad nights sleep!

Restless Legs, known as RLS, also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, is a neurological disorder characterised by an irresistible urge to move to stop uncomfortable or odd sensations. As it usually interferes with sleep, it is also considered a sleep disorder.

Last year I did a straw poll of some Project Managers attending our APM courses, and it turns out that at least 40% of them had suffered from Restless Legs at some stage, and this was linked to a particularly stressful part of the project life-cycle.

They didn’t particularly realise it was RLS, and put it down to pressure at work

Although its name indicates that it affects the legs, RLS can affect the arms, head, and other parts of the body. By moving the affected body part can temporarily suspend the sensations associated with RLS, thereby providing temporary relief.

In many cases RLS symptoms begin when you go to bed. Just as they are beginning to relax the symptoms appear and you have no choice but to get out of bed to stretch – this can happen many times in one night. RLS can lead to long sleepless nights and daytime fatigue and invariably impacts on your quality of life, including your patience with your project team, and those close to you.

The sensations associated with RLS are most often compared to an itching or tickling in the muscles, like “an itch you can’t scratch” or an unpleasant “tickle that won’t stop.” It has also been described as a ‘creepy-crawly’ feeling or like there’s fizzy water inside the legs. The sensations typically begin or intensify when a person is in a relaxed state.

Read more about Restless Leg Syndrome on the NHS website.

For at least 30% of you reading this, I think you will probably be thinking that this sounds familiar

Stress might not directly cause RLS, but it can certainly make the symptoms appear worse by heightening your awareness of them and creating a stress reaction that may further prevent you from getting to sleep.

So what can you do help sleep and alleviate the symptoms of RLS?

  • Cut out any caffeine after midday
  • Keep anything sweet out of your intake later in the day
    • sugar, ice-cream, cakes, puddings
  • Moderate exercise and stretching before sleep time
  • Practice Mindfulness – once you are awake stop those thoughts that keep you awake from getting into your mind (reviewing the risk or change log in your head for example)

Is there anything I can do to help insomnia?

We all know sleep is important and have felt how awful it can be the next day, or even days, if you have had limited or no sleep.

While updating this article (it’s now February 2021 and we’re in the middle of our third national lockdown due to Coronavirus), we came across an incredibly in-depth and informative complete guide to insomnia and how you can manage it. This guide is well worth a read and explains exactly how you can self-manage the symptoms and improve your energy levels.

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