In this time and age where we have to do a lot of things, sleep is one of the things that suffers. Some people sacrifice sleep to be more productive, but the result is the opposite. A number of independent studies show that employees are likely to perform effectively and profitably with sufficient sleep. Did you know that sleep deprivation can cost over $3,000 in lost productivity per employee? Because your career and health are at stake, it’s important to ask: How well do you understand the relationship between sleep and productivity? Learn more about how sleep affects productivity so you can work better and sustain a healthy, quality life.

The huge cost of sleep problems

The cost of sleep deprivation is expensive. In addition to the productivity loss per employee that was mentioned earlier, lack of sleep sets back companies by the billions. A recent Harvard study estimates that in the US alone, sleep deprivation costs over $63 billion per year in lost productivity. Market economies have a role to play in this sleep problem. A prevalent ethos commands people skip sleep in order to work faster, longer, and more. However, it’s becoming apparent now that productivity is jeopardized when work is driven by the mythical and misguided assumption that we should sleep less to gain more.

The “sleep crisis” and global productivity

While constant technological advancements create a picture of global progress, scientists are raising the alarm on what has been termed a “global sleep crisis.” It is estimated that as many as 150 million worldwide are sleep sufferers. The number can in fact be higher. In the US alone, as many as 70 million people are said to have some form of sleep disorder. In the developing world, sleep problems have been associated with people with lower education and lower quality of life. If left untreated, the widespread sleep epidemic can place populations at greater risk not only for productivity loss but also for a number of chronic diseases and challenges to daily life and relationships.

Lack of sleep harms productivity and mental functioning

For many people, productive work and sleep are incompatible. Many of us have been used to the idea that we must forgo sufficient sleep in order to finish work. But the truth is when you’re sleep deprived, your performance slows down.

When you lose a good night’s sleep, vital parts of the brain such as the parietal and occipital lobes become less active. The parietal lobe is crucial for processing information and control of the senses, while the occipital lobe is involved in visual evaluation. Sleep deprivation causes an overall reduction of glucose reaching the brain.

You can think of glucose as food for your brain. With less glucose, the brain “thinks” that it should simply stay awake even though it’s tired. This harms your ability to analyze and understand the task at hand. Lack of sleep affects your ability to distinguish between ideas, control your senses, and tell the difference between good and bad decisions.

Risk assessment of sleep deprivation and productivity

Sleep deprivation affects your productivity and performance not just in relation to your work but to your relationship to the people around you. For example, if you’re a working parent, it’s important to understand that lack of sleep can deter your kid’s mental and physical development. Whether it’s due to school work or late-night TV watching, sleep deprivation among kids should be avoided at all costs if they are to be healthy and productive.

If you handle a business, work as a medical professional, or have key position in an organization, having a healthy sleeping habit can ensure that you make the right decisions. Sleepless nights contribute to the increase of preventable errors. For example, a surgeon can likely commit a mistake if he or she is less alert because of sleep deprivation. Whatever your job profile, you can better perform on top of your game with sufficient sleep.

Are naps helpful to regain productivity?

Realistically speaking, it’s sometimes unavoidable to miss a good night’s sleep. This is where naps can come in handy. While it should never be seen as a substitute for sufficient sleep, naps have been shown to positively impact productivity. Some jobs that take place in the evening necessitate nap breaks for relaxation and to increase vigilance and reaction time. Night shift air traffic controllers, for example, can feel restored with a 40- to 90-minute nap. Similarly, elite performers—from athletes and musicians to chess players and lawyers—can be their best if they practice smart work breaks.

The importance of napping and work breaks in increasing productivity has much to do with our physiology. Humans beings aren’t designed to use up energy continuously. Our bodies can work best in intervals, between spending and recovering lost energy. Taking a power nap is an effective prescription that you can adopt for maximizing productivity.

The ideal number of sleep hours

How much sleep do we really need if we want to be productive? The number of sleep hours varies between individuals. The National Sleep Foundation has come up with a recommended ideal amount of time according to a person’s age. Kids need 9 to 14 hours of sleep while most adults need at least 7 hours of sleep each night.

It’s also important to set up the right sleeping environment. Turn off the lights at night because light affects your body’s internal sleep/wake cycle. Invest in a foam mattress and memory foam to ensure that your body is properly supported during sleep.

When improving sleeping habits, it can be helpful to consider the gender because it plays a role in sleep patterns. Women often need more sleep than men and they experience lighter sleep that can easily be disrupted. This is due to some factors such as pregnancy and hormonal changes. Men, on the other hand, are more susceptible to job-related stress and stressors such as money and employment. While gender is not a conclusive indication of how much sleep a person needs, it can be helpful to consider for better sleep.

To be productive, you cannot discount the importance of health and sleep. Understanding the relationship of productivity and sleep is key to unlocking your body’s full potential for a healthy, effective, and superior living.

Author's Bio: 

Anna Rodriguez is a manager and a passionate writer. She writes about investment, home improvement, green sustainability, business and tech innovations. She owns Homey Guide Blog. You can follow her at @annrodriguez021