Sleep and Its Impact on Our Work: Part 1 – The Basics

6 mins read

This article covers The Basics of Sleep: Quantity, Quality, and Regularity.

We hear it all the time, it just doesn’t seem like there are enough hours in a day. Because of this there is an ongoing internal struggle almost all of us experience: do I sacrifice sleep for work, or sacrifice work for sleep? There is also always the third option… COFFEE! Being in a society based on work and productivity, it’s more often that work will be chosen at the expense of a proper night’s rest. While this is a personal decision that each person is free to make, there is a great deal of research that shows sacrificing sleep could also mean sacrificing productivity, your mental health, physical health, and safety. Sleep is truly an essential part to our wellness, and our wellness directly affects our work. Missing out on a few hours of sleep could be putting yourself at higher risks and diminishing the quality of your work.

Let’s explore the basics of healthy sleeping, including quantity, quality, and regularity. This is part 1 in our series on “Sleep and Its Impact on Our Work”.

The Basics of Sleeping
Sleeping is something we all must do and is a daily activity that is usually taken for granted. So how much do we really know about sleep? For healthy sleep, there are 3 components that work together to ensure you are well rested and working at your optimal level:

1. Quantity:
The amount of sleep we get is very important. While some people need more sleep than others, most research shows that fewer then 7 hours of sleep per night will affect people’s overall health. When this lack of sleep becomes a pattern, people put themselves in a state of sleep deprivation. Matthew Walker, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, says that 8 hours of sleep is required to repair the damage of 16 hours of wakefulness.

2. Quality:
While the amount of sleep we are getting is important, it is just as important to factor in the quality of the sleep. Though you may be sleeping, your body and mind could still be restless or in a state of stress. It is important to avoid things that disrupt your sleep such as noises, light or substances that affect your sleep cycle. While at the same time encouraging things that help your sleep such as a good bedtime routine: go to bed and wake up at similar times and avoid eating or drinking before bed.

3. Regularity:
Sleep patterns are decided by the body’s circadian rhythm, which is highly effected by the regularity of your sleep. Your circadian rhythm is basically an internal clock that lets you know when you are awake or restful by producing certain hormones such as melatonin. The circadian rhythm is also governed in part by light received by the optic nerves, which is why screen-time before bed can be very disruptive to your sleep. Maintaining a regular and predictable sleep schedule is key in helping your circadian rhythm stay regular. To highlight the detrimental effects of regularity, Matthew Walker explains: “There is a global experiment that is performed on 1.6 billion people twice a year and it’s called daylight saving time. And we know that in the spring, when we lose one hour of sleep, we see a subsequent 24% increase in heart attacks the following day”.

When in Doubt, Sleep it Out

The facts are clear: better sleep is better for business. Whether you want to improve productivity, mental and physical health, or workplace safety, better sleep is a great place to start! While adjusting to a new nighttime and/or morning routine may be difficult, the rewards are far greater. We challenge you to evaluate your current sleep routine and decide the areas you can improve on. By improving the quantity, quality, and regularity of our sleep patterns, we will all be able to see an improvement not just within our work, but our lives in general. So hey, when in doubt, sleep it out!

Next up in our 5 part series is “Sleep and Its Impact on Our Work: Part 2 – Sleep Deprivation and Performance”. In the meantime, you can watch more of Matthew Walker in this Ted talk on his sleep research.

Download this resource article Sleep and Its Impact on Our Work: Part 1 – The Basics (pdf).

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