It’s a common practice to sacrifice sleep for work, believing it’ll increase productivity. However, the reality is that insufficient sleep impairs our work performance. So how can we escape from this draining cycle?
Good-quality sleep is essential for regulating mood and emotions, enhancing creativity, and maintaining the ability to focus.
Sleep loss can lead to fatigue, mood changes, difficulty paying attention, decreased reaction times, and increased chances of making mistakes.
Sleep loss has a high economic cost estimated at $400 billion annually in the United States.
To improve sleep and productivity at the workplace, one should try improving sleep hygiene and seek support from a healthcare professional to help manage work-related fatigue.
How can sleep affect work?
The moment we lie down and close our eyes, our brain transitions from the awake state to the sleep state. Our breathing and heart rate slow down, and our muscles relax.
No one knows for sure why we sleep. However, one thing is certain; sleep is vital for our overall health and well-being.
When we sleep, our bodies undergo important processes that greatly impact how we perform at work and how productive we are. Therefore, getting enough sleep is critical because it helps us maintain our ability to:
- Focus. And pay attention, make decisions, and remember things.
- Avoid mood swings. And heightened stress levels.
- Stay engaged. And active throughout the workday.
- React quickly. To stimuli avoiding errors and accidents.
- Stay away. From illness, avoiding sick leaves.
Effects of sleep loss on job performance
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) recommends that healthy adults get at least 7 hours of sleep per night. Yet, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about a third of American adults regularly sleep less than that.
It’s easy to understand why this happens. We live such busy lives juggling work, school, family, and household chores that many people cut out sleep just to fit it all in.
However, we pay a high price for our neglect. Trying to work while sleep-deprived can significantly impact work performance since sleep loss can lead to:
- Mood changes, including irritability, anxiety, or depression.
- Difficulty performing more than one task at a time.
- Difficulty paying attention and reacting quickly to stimuli.
- Fatigue or daytime sleepiness.
- Inability to drive safely.
- Increased chances of catching colds and infections.
- An increased likelihood of making mistakes.
- Higher chances of being involved in accidents.
When we're not as alert as we should be due to a lack of sleep, it can create problems in various professions.
For example, in an office setting, it might result in not responding quickly in conversation or missing an important call. However, for some professions, this lack of alertness can be dangerous.
Imagine the risks involved if a surgeon makes a mistake during a procedure, a driver fails to react quickly to a sudden obstacle on the road, or a firefighter misses important cues during a rescue operation.
Furthermore, chronic sleep loss can further increase the risk of various physical and mental health issues. Conditions like diabetes, heart disease, depression, cognitive decline, and anxiety become more likely when we consistently don't get enough sleep. Unfortunately, these health challenges can make it even more difficult to maintain productivity in the workplace.
The economic impact of sleep loss
Besides its harmful effect on people’s health, insufficient sleep results in high economic costs.
Research has revealed that sleep deprivation is taking a staggering toll of approximately $400 billion from the American economy annually. Other economies are not far behind. For instance, sleep deprivation has an annual cost of $138 billion for Japan, $60 billion for Germany, and $50 billion for the UK. Additionally, sleep-related absences from work contribute to a yearly loss of ten million working hours in the United States, 4.8 million in Japan, and 1.7 million in Germany.
As a result, insufficient sleep not only affects employees but also places a substantial financial burden on employers due to reduced productivity in the workplace. This represents an annual cost of approximately $2,280.
These figures can escalate further since inadequate sleep can raise healthcare costs for employers.
Quality sleep tips for productivity
If you consistently feel tired at work due to insufficient sleep, it's time to make some adjustments. Here are a few tips to enhance your sleep quality and boost productivity:
- Have healthy sleep habits. This includes going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, removing all electronic devices from the bedroom, avoiding large meals, alcohol, and caffeine before bedtime, exercising, and getting sunlight exposure during the day.
- Prioritize sleep. Many people sleep less than needed because they don't prioritize sleep. Emphasizing the importance of sleep can be a life-changer. Take a closer look at the "excuses" you make for staying up late and determine which ones truly justify the negative consequences of sleep deprivation.
- Find support. If your job is causing you sleepless nights, it's worth considering discussing this matter with your supervisor or bringing it up with your company's HR department for a possible resolution.
- Seek professional help. A doctor or sleep specialist can create a personalized plan to deal with your sleep problems or work-related fatigue.
Sleep loss can have a significant impact on your performance at work. On the other hand, good-quality sleep can improve your reaction time and keep you motivated throughout the day. You can improve your sleep quality and overall sleep performance by making simple lifestyle changes.
- Physiological Research. Functions of Sleep.
- CDC. Sleep and Sleep Disorders.
- Sleep Medicine. Sleep deprivation and its association with diseases- a review.
- Rand Health Quarterly. Why Sleep Matters—The Economic Costs of Insufficient Sleep.
- Frontiers in Public Health. The Interplay Between Poor Sleep and Work-Related Health.
- Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. Recommended Amount of Sleep for a Healthy Adult: A Joint Consensus Statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society.