Getting your Zzz’s – The Role of Sleep in the Art of Productivity

It’s getting busy at work, you have two meetings tomorrow and task upon task is awaiting completion. You have two choices, you can either go to bed, or, spend some extra time preparing yourself for the day to come. You choose to spend the extra time preparing yourself for the next day and end up pulling an all-nighter before heading into work. The next morning you still do not feel prepared and now on top of that you’re tired.

You wouldn’t pound two beers before going to work, so why would you deprive yourself of the basic human necessity of sleep. Believe it or not after just a couple of five-hour nights of sleep your alertness is impaired to the same extent as somebody who has a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05%, which according to the law is the point of impairment. Now although a midday mojito sounds like a fabulous 2pm venture it is important that we all sleep before we act.

The Effects of Not Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

There is a number of negative effects associated with not getting your zzzz’s but it is important to first understand why less and less North Americans are getting the sleep they need. The main culprit, work overload. Between working too much, balancing family, friends, activities, cooking, cleaning you name it there is less time allocated for sleep. Another big issue, technology. Technology makes it almost impossible to disconnect (pun intended) from the bustling world around us.

So, when we sleep too little and work too much what exactly is it that happens? There are two main issues that arise. First there is a negative impact on cognitive performance. This includes slower reaction times, difficulty focusing, difficulty making decisions, trouble learning and even making more mistakes.  There is also a negative impact to physical performance which includes, decreased energy and grogginess which is the direct result of increased cortisol levels in the body. Increased cortisol levels due to sleep deprivation can also cause rapid weight gain.

There are also costs to productivity associated with poor sleep. It is estimated that in the United States sleep deprivation costs the US economy approximately $411 billion annually, that’s $2280 per person, per year in lost wages.

So how can we ensure we can still do everything we want to do but also get enough sleep to be able to do these things?

Reasonable afternoon and nighttime routines – this includes things like not drinking coffee at 4pm, we’ve all been there, don’t do it. This also includes things like creating a set routine that’s easy to follow, like making a cup of tea and powering down electronics at least one hour before bed.

Giving yourself time in the morning – giving ourselves time to pack a lunch, drink a coffee, make and eat a healthy breakfast will ensure we do not feel rushed or pressured in the mornings.

Napping – napping restores alertness, a 30-minute nap will help reenergize you, however be careful and try not to nap for long periods of time as this can be more harmful than helpful and can actually leave you feeling more tired.

The Effects of Getting a Good Nights Sleep

OK, you know that not sleeping is bad, but why is sleeping good for you?

Getting ample sleep could help you advance your career. Those who get enough sleep recover from distractions faster, have a lower risk of burnout, have improved memory and make fewer mistakes.

On the physical side of things sleep may help you lose weight, prevent cancer and will help to repair and restore muscles and body tissue, given you sleep long enough to reach a deep sleep, approximately 7-7.5hrs a night.

 So, save yourself the stress, beat the productivity crisis, save $2280 in the process and sleep for goodness sake. Do it for you, your career and for those who have to put up with you when you’re tired.

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Tina Varughese