Bad sleep hurts work performance. You need a good night’s sleep to be at your best.
This, in a nutshell, is the underlying reason I stress the importance of quality sleep each week: You’re not you when you’re running on less than 7 hours of sleep each night.
You’re not in this alone.
Poor sleep impacts millions of Americans — and research suggests the issue is getting worse, not better.
A recent study found 35.6% of people get less than 7 hours of sleep each night, or the baseline amount for a good night’s sleep. That’s up from 30.9% of people who got inadequate sleep each night in 2010.
I bring this up because I know, with 2020 just getting started, that many of you have set career goals for the new year. Maybe you’re making a push for a promotion, looking to make more sales than you ever have before, or aiming to land your dream job. I think that’s great, and I fully support setting ambitious professional goals.
Unfortunately, I’ve noticed many people sacrifice sleep in order to put more time into their work. That isn’t a great trade-off, though. Poor sleep can derail your work performance and has been connected to several problems that make doing your job more difficult. We’ll get into those in one moment.
A new survey over at Eachnight.com just caught my eye. The survey, which looked at 1,001 participants, showed how sleep plays a role in helping people find their next job.
Participants who got quality sleep each night sent out less job applications and needed fewer interviews before being hired, compared to participants who got less than 6.5 hours of sleep each night. Those getting a good night’s sleep also secured jobs much faster — taking less than 3.5 months on average to find their next job, compared to more than 5 months on average for those getting poor sleep.
Participants who got quality sleep were also much happier with their new jobs, with 79% of well-rested respondents saying they were satisfied with their job, while only 54% of tired respondents said they were satisfied.
Here’s how bad sleep hurts work performance.
Bad Sleep Hurts Your Ability to Focus
Concentrating at work is tougher without proper sleep, and there’s a reason for that. It’s because the neurons in your brain fire slower and weaker when you’re tired.
Poor sleep negatively impacts your performance, including your memory and cognitive skills, which help you absorb information and develop ideas. When your neurons fire slower, it also delays your reaction time, which can also be dangerous
A recent study from Michigan State University I mentioned last month drove this home, where participants were twice as likely to make mental mistakes when they didn’t get enough sleep.
We often think about rest and how it helps our bodies recover. But completing the four stages of sleep is just as important when it comes to our mental health. Good, consistent sleep allows our brains to rest, reset, and file away important information properly. Then, when the time comes for us to think quickly and critically, we’re able to avoid that “scatterbrained” sensation and perform effectively under pressure.
You Get Sick Easier When You Don’t Sleep Enough
There’s an old saying that showing up is half the battle. But you’ll likely be showing up for work less if you’re not getting enough sleep.
Poor sleep has been linked to a number of health issues. In particular, keep in mind you are 4 times more likely to catch the cold if you’re getting 6 hours of sleep or less. You’re also more likely to catch the flu when you’re not well rested.
Quality sleep lets the body build up its defense against illness. Sleep has been tied to the production of AcPb, a brain protein researchers have connected to faster recovery times from the flu, for example. And a good night’s sleep is also tied to the production of T-Cells, which battle infections and fight back against colds.
Sleep does the same thing for our immune system that going to the gym does for our body. It allows our immune system to exercise, essentially, and build itself up to defend against illness.
By getting good sleep, you’re improving your chances of avoiding getting sick and being able to hit the office day in, day out.
You’re Less Productive When You Get a Bad Night’s Sleep
Poor sleep is synonymous with fatigue, so it’s no surprise your productivity slips when you’re tired.
What is surprising, though, is how little it takes to hurt your ability to work efficiently. One 2019 study from the University of Southern Florida showed adults who lost only 16 minutes of sleep had a more difficult time completing tasks the following day at work.
Some companies are profitably taking notice of the connection between sleep and productivity.
A few years ago, Aetna started paying its employees up to $300 more per year for getting more than 7 hours of sleep each night. Since implementing the policy, the company has seen worker productivity increase by 69 minutes per month on average.
Next Steps For Better Sleep
There are a few easy steps you can take to improve your sleep and your work
The first is to create a sleep schedule that will carve out enough time for you to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night. In a recent blog post Ioutlined a few things to avoid before going to bed, like exercising right before falling asleep. I also recommend using my sleep calculator to determine your ideal bedtime based on when you need to wake up.
Finally, you can determine when your intellectual capabilities peak during the day based on your chronotype. This information lets you plan your day — when to work on research projects, when to brainstorm — based on your personal biorhythms which determine when you’re naturally inclined to perform at your best. It’s easy to learn about your chronotype by taking this quiz: www.chronoquiz.com.
I hope that your 2020 Restolutions are leading to better nights of restful, restorative sleep each evening.
Dr. Michael Breus
PS: If you have difficulty falling asleep or you wake up in the middle of the night and have difficulty going back to sleep, I’d encourage you to try SleepDoctorPM, my specially formulated nighttime sleep spray that helps you go to sleep and that helps you go back to sleep if you wake up, without leaving you with that groggy, foggy feeling in the morning. I’m running a special right now that’s a little bonker, you’ll have to see it to believe it!
PPS: January is a great time to remember to change your pillow. Pillows should be replaced every 12-18 months. Pillows break down with use faster because they get used harder (think of all the times and ways you use your pillow) and they are filled with oils from your head and products from your hair. Over time they degrade, become harder with less loft, and the oils and products can even become rancid leaving them smelly and uncomfortable to sleep on. I replace my pillow regularly for this very reason. My favorite pillow is the Everpillow because it is adjustable in loft and firmness and because it comes in the curve for side sleepers.