7 Ways sleep impacts your productivity

    Companies lose money when you come to work without getting enough rest over a period of time. You don’t just feel sluggish, your performance is sluggish, too.

    That slowed-down feeling adds up to a loss of $411 billion per year for the U.S. economy.

    We all need proper sleep to work effectively.

    You produce less when you sleep less

    There are many ways that sleep deprivation decreases your productivity:

    1. You can’t pay attention to the task at hand.

    You needn’t be a walking zombie unable to see straight to see your work suffer. Just yawning when you’re tired can distract you for several seconds for each yawn. That’s enough to slow your progress.

    2. Your memory suffers and you need more time to complete tasks.

    Even being somewhat sleep deprived has been shown to decrease your ability to stay vigilant about completing tasks.

    I had this roommate in college who always seemed to be finishing papers at 3 a.m. One day, she fell asleep in the middle of writing. She woke up later and read the last thing she’d written for an essay on Renaisance theater, “ … and the sword and the sword and the sword . . .”

    We still laugh about that one, but the point is clear: Without sleep, you can’t finish what you start.

    3. Your decision-making is impaired.

    If you’re working more slowly because you’re tired, you run a higher risk of having an accident and of hurting yourself or someone else in the process.

    Imagine a nurse working a double shift on four hours of sleep, trying to sort out who needs a blood coagulant and who needs a blood thinner. Give a patient the wrong medicine and people die. Even communicating with colleagues about what needs to be done can be more difficult when you’re tired.

    4. Your immune system suffers and you miss work.

    The same study that calculated the monetary value of lost work productivity due to sleep deprivation in the U.S. figured out that it also lost the equivalent of 1.23 million work days.

    When you lose sleep, you’re more liable to get sick. If you’re sick, you stay home.  Even though most people get paid for a certain number of sick days per year, your absence still leaves a gap in how your team or department is able to finish assignments in a given day.

    You produce more when you sleep enough

    It’s hard to function when you’re tired, but getting enough restful sleep can also jump start your workday in several ways:

    1. Your body heals itself while you sleep.

    While you sleep, hormones are released that allow for tissue growth, which will help muscles, bones, and cuts and scrapes heal. Your body also produces more illness-fighting white blood cells and gives your heart a rest because your blood pressure drops during slumber.

    2. Your mind becomes more fluid.

    You can solve problems and be more creative with good rest each night. A brain that is fully rested just functions better. If you’re struggling to make a decision, it’ll be easier for you to think about the next morning with eight full hours of sleep under your best.

    3. Your outlook on life is more positive.

    Poor sleepers can be crabby during waking hours. It’s not a personality fault, it’s a physical one. You’ll be happier after a good night’s sleep.

    What to do

    Someone who can regularly sleep 7 to 8 hours per night sets themselves up for a productive day.  But how do we go about getting enough sleep?

    1. Analyze your sleeping arrangements.

    Who do you sleep with? How do you usually fall asleep? Are you warm or cool enough under the covers? Is your bed and mattress firm enough for you? (Remember 36 percent of couples need different levels of firmness.)

    2. Avoid screens before bedtime.

    We are a nation addicted to screens. But the blue light that is emitted from your phone, tablet and video screen keeps you awake. It’s too much stimuli.

    Keep all of that out of your bedroom. If you need to lull yourself to sleep with a task, read a book. It will relax you more effectively than your screens will.

    3. Choose a soundtrack for bedtime and daytime routines.

    There is music out there that has literally been composed to slow your heart rate and ease your mind. Find it and enjoy it as you close your eyes to rest.

    And during the day, the right kind of music will help you concentrate on work.

    4. See a doctor.

    Don’t be scared about talking to a doctor about your sleep habits and any aches and pains you might have that keep you up at night.

    If you are falling asleep during the day, there could very well be a medical problem like sleep apnea or insomnia. Or maybe you’re having back problems, which could exacerbate troubles falling asleep.

    Mattress firmness can also play a role in decreasing pain. Dr. Dominique of Alpine Chiropractic: 20-30% of patients who say they regular wake up in pain attribute the problem to a bad mattress.

    5. Search for ways to do things more efficiently during waking hours.

    Failing to finish work can wreak havoc on your confidence. Stress makes it harder to sleep. So get more productive.

    Take some time to organize your life when the sun is out.

    Looking forward

    When you lose sleep to the extent that you always feel tired, the costs are high.

    The quality of your work suffers and your company takes a financial hit.

    Your immune system weakens and it’s harder to heal and feel strong.

    And the cycle—losing sleep, malfunctioning at work and feeling anxious about doing poor work—may also chip away at your mental health and quality of life.

    To perform well in any part of your life, you must rest. Rest, please.

    Izzy Adams
    Izzy Adams
    Izzy Adams is a freelance writer from Raleigh, North Carolina. She’s passionate about sleep health and fitness. You can find her going on long runs and soaking up rays on the beach.

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