Sleep and Its Impact on Our Work: Part 2 – Sleep Deprivation and Performance

5 mins read

This article looks into the impact sleep deprivation has on performance and productivity at work.

We hear it all the time, it just doesn’t seem like there are enough hours in a day. The 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 your health at risk and diminishing the quality of your work.

Let’s explore how sleep deprivation can affect the productivity and performance of our work. This is part 2 of 5 in our series on “Sleep and Its Impact on Our Work”.

How can sleep deprivation affect our work?

According to Matthew Walker, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, once we get past about 16 hours of wakefulness, we start to see mental and physiological deterioration in the body. After we’ve been awake 19-20 hours, our “mental capacity is so impaired that you would be as deficient as someone who was legally drunk behind the wheel of a car”! Essentially, to Matthew Walker, wakefulness past a certain point could be considered a form of low-level brain damage. So, what exactly are we damaging in our work life if we are not repairing the impairment of our wakefulness? Performance and productivity are just 1 of 4 areas that may be directly affected by our sleep that will impact our work life:

Performance and Productivity

It is not surprising to hear that most survey responses admit to poorer workplace performance due to a lack of sleep. Specifically, people report it is harder to generate new ideas, it takes longer to complete tasks, and is harder to stay focused in meetings. Along with the lack of focus and reduction of creative capacities there can be a decreased motivation to learn, and a lower capacity of time management skills and prioritization. When it comes down to it, less sleep means the neurons in your brain are overworked, resulting in impaired thinking, slower physical reactions, and feeling emotionally drained – all of which will not help with performance or productivity at work!

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!

If you would like to watch more of Mathew Walker, here is a 19 min Ted talk on his sleep research.

Next up in our 5 part series on Sleep and Its Impact on Our Work is Part 3 – Sleep Deprivation and Physical Health.

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