How and Why Sleep Improves Your Productivity

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Sleep is an automatic occurrence. We can’t avoid it and most of us wouldn’t want to even if we could. Sleep is healthy and restorative, allowing us to recharge and tackle the new day.

When it is plentiful and good quality, sleep feels incredibly pleasant and has a vast array of positive impacts on our daily life. We feel more energized, our focus is better and our mood tends to be far more stable and controllable.

On the other hand, when it is not good quality, sleep can feel stressful. Some people have trouble shutting off their brain and drifting off, while others have trouble staying asleep.

Some wake up in the middle of the night and cannot go back to sleep and others still simply do not get enough quantity of sleep every, or most, nights.

Both the benefits and the drawbacks of sleep have a profound influence on individual and group productivity and performance.

This article outlines some issues that come with a lack a sleep, as well as what the individual and the company can do about it. 

Sleep Stats

It is estimated that the grown up individual requires 7-8 hours of sleep a night. More liberal estimates extended the duration up to 9 hours.

Toddlers, children, teens and the elderly have their own estimates and the amount decreases as the person ages, but the healthy range usually doesn’t drop below 7 hours.

Naturally, there are always exceptions and small variations, but for every person, it is very easy to tell if they are not getting enough sleep. These symptoms are discussed in the following sections.

It’s been conventional wisdom that sleep is hugely important and its benefits have been noted long ago, but recently, some scientific studies have been done and the corporate world has taken notice.

A Harvard and Hult sleep study have both found that many working people are regularly sleep deprived and that this deprivation becomes worse the higher the position of the subject. With in mind, let us take a look at some of the tangible consequences.

Effects of Sleep on The Bottom Line

Your own personal experience is likely to be a very clear and persuasive indicator of the information in this paragraph. While operating under a lack of sleep, the first symptom is grogginess or lethargy.

This directly affects focus and performance, especially in terms of volume. It is immediately clear how both the employer and the employee lose when this occurs.

More seriously, a lack of sleep adversely impacts memory and speed, which can significantly hinder decision-making. Couple this with the fact that managers, who are in a higher position, are on average less likely to sleep well, and this becomes a threat to their job.

A chronic lack of sleep was found to lead to other physical symptoms, most prominently and dangerously, a lowered immune system, making the person more susceptible to all sort of illnesses.

Most commonly, these manifest as colds and seasonal illnesses, but all the same, they lead to days off and loss in time and output.

When you combine all these problems, which can ultimately be traced back to something as simple and necessary as sleep, it becomes obvious that both the individuals and the companies need to take it very seriously and actively work on improving it.

Increasing The Quality of Sleep

The issues people have with their sleeping habits are often diverse and quite complex. There are steps to take and pieces of advice to follow that are very general and can’t hurt to try, such as slowly plugging out of the day by not doing work-related things or watching TV at least an hour before bed.

These stimuli tend to shift your brain back into gear and make it all the more difficult to nod off. For some, a walk or a run helps them get good and tired before hitting the hay.

However, many people also have easily identifiable issues they might need help with and this is where sleep gadgets come in. There are apps for your smartphone that can change the quality of light so that it doesn’t wake your brain up, apps that play expertly selected noises to help you sleep, timers that wake you up in the optimal moment to avoid grogginess, and more.

Other sleep gadgets include smart clothes, eye glasses, masks, devices and diffusers that either target specific areas or the entire process of sleep to make it better. There are also courses and programs that are designed to help if nothing you have tried has worked.

Measures Companies (Can) Take

Because they have recognized the effect of sleep on their workers, some prominent companies have started raising awareness about it and some even go a step further.

Companies like Ben & Jerry’s, Zappos, Nike, the Huffington Post and even NASA, who have actually pioneered it, offer designated nap areas for their workers. It has been noted that a short 20 minute nap can dramatically improve productivity and overall mood, so this is definitely a step in the right direction. Companies report that these areas or rooms are a great hit and always booked up.

If this practice is not possible, companies should at least make sure to educate their employees and encourage them to get enough sleep outside of work.

Finally, the ethical thing to do when it comes to persons in the highest positions would be to reduce their workload if it is such that it requires overly long hours and activity outside company hours on a regular basis.

A bad decision or a sneaky chronic illness does nobody any good and the few hours the manager or CEO takes off every week can be more than made up for with an improved disposition and sharpened focus.