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How Sleep (or Lack thereof) Affects Work Performance

In this guest post, sleep expert, Adam Kyle, provides helpful information about the value of sleep for greater success at work.

The productivity of your workday is heavily influenced by a huge block of time that takes place outside of work—sleep. During this time, you heal, restore, and prepare for the next day’s challenges – all outside of your awareness. Without at least seven hours of sleep, you’re prone to distraction, poor thinking skills, and problems with inter-office relationships. But, the power to improve your sleep lies within your control.

Critical Thinking and Decision Making Skills

Your critical thinking and decision-making skills are one of your most valuable assets. However, without sleep, you can be seriously compromised. A sleep-deprived brain doesn’t have time to cleanse itself of toxic proteins that accumulate during the day. It also doesn’t spend the necessary time pruning and strengthening the communication pathways that keep your thinking sharp.

The cumulative effect is a dampening of brain cell activity. Neurons in the brain cannot fire at full speed due to the resulting fatigue. Your ability to make those split-second decisions or to critically think through a difficult problem can be seriously hampered.

How Sleep (or Lack thereof) Affects Work Performance

Concentration and Creativity

You’ve probably experienced how difficult it can be to focus and concentrate when you’re tired. But did you also realize that sleep deprivation can influence your creativity?

During slow wave sleep, the brain replays new information, consolidates memories, and creates and strengthens connections between old and new information. Essentially, your learning ability gets a boost while you sleep. The same holds true for creativity. There’s evidence that more sleep leads to a rise in creative solutions because the brain runs through these possibilities while you sleep.

Emotional Stability and Work Relationships

Working as part of a team relies on your emotional stability and interpersonal relationships with your coworkers. However, lack of sleep causes changes in the emotion and logic centers of the brain. The emotional center becomes oversensitive to anything negative, including common office issues like constructive criticism, technology problems, or issues with a coworker or client. At the same time, the brain’s logic center becomes quiet, exerting less influence over your emotional responses.

Consequently, irritability, anxiety, stress, and depression become far more common the more sleep you lose. Sleep acts as an emotional regulator so that you can be in full control of professional life.

How Sleep (or Lack thereof) Affects Work Performance

Better Sleep Through Healthy Habits

The quality (and quantity) of your sleep depends a great deal on your personal habits and behaviors. The good news is, this means you have some control over your sleep outcomes.

  • Set a Reasonable Bedtime: Bedtime is just as valuable to adults as it is to children, and it performs many of the same functions. The human body depends on patterns of behavior to correctly time cycles that repeat every 24 hours, including the sleep cycle. Consistency allows your body to anticipate when to start the release of sleep hormones.
  • Cater to Your Comfort Needs: Everyone has different comfort needs and issues. Those with back pain may need a mattress specifically designed for back problems while others may need natural fiber sheets and bedding to allow for maximum breathability. Accommodate your own issues, which may mean a white noise machine, ceiling fan, or automatically timed lights, so you can have the quiet, cool, dark sleep environment you need.

How Sleep (or Lack thereof) Affects Work Performance

  • Nap Carefully and Strategically: A quick 10 to 15-minute nap on your lunch break can restore your concentration, focus, and creativity. You don’t want to spend too much time napping as it can interfere with your nightly sleep cycle and, of course, be mindful of your employer’s time. However, if you can slide one in appropriately, you might just find that it recharges you.
  • Make Time for the Outdoors: Nature can help your sleep cycle by calming the part of the brain responsible for feelings of depression and anxiety. It’s also been found that spending time in nature can restore the brain’s ability to concentrate and focus. One study even found that a short 40-second view of a natural environment boosted attention to facts and details.
Conclusion

The efficiency of your work performance starts long before you sit down at your desk. To truly put your best foot forward, you have to start with a full night’s rest. Therefore, making time for sleep is really making time for the professional success.

For additional tips on improving your sleep, click here.

How Sleep (or Lack thereof) Affects Work Performance
Patricia Thompson - Corporate Psychologist and Management Consultant | Silver Lining Psychology

About the Author

Dr. Patricia Thompson is a Corporate Psychologist and Management Consultant who is passionate about helping her clients flourish by making well-informed hiring decisions, cultivating talent, and developing a positive organizational culture. Read more...