In today’s world, the line between work and life has blurred. More people are constantly connected via their email, social media, television, and more, up until the moment that we sleep. Because of our connectedness to the world, we are spending less time sleeping.
Our busy schedules and high stress levels negatively impact our sleep which significantly impacts the work that we undertake. In this article, we will define poor sleep, the relationship between poor sleep and health and productivity at work, and also provide seven easy-to-implement tips on how to improve sleep.
What Is Poor Sleep?
According to The National Sleep Foundation, the average adult should aim to get 7 to 9 hours of undisturbed sleep per night. Although this average duration changes with the age of a working individual, the guidance is a helpful starting point to understanding poor sleep. Some individuals may require more than the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep, while others may sleep less. Deviating too far from this range is rare and most likely relates to poor sleep.
Sleep duration alone, however, is not the only measure distinguishing good sleep from poor sleep. If you are having troubles falling asleep within 30 minutes of getting into bed, waking up more than once and then struggling to go back to sleep, and not feeling rested upon waking, you most likely also struggle with poor sleep quality.
The Relationship Between Poor Sleep And Health
One awful night’s sleep on its own will not be enough to directly affect your health. However, a string of terrible nights will start to have more serious implications for your health. Poor sleep, and more specifically, insufficient sleep increases an individual’s risk of developing a wide range of medical conditions including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and depression. Poor sleep also leads to moodiness, fatigue, a short temper, and a lack of focus.
According to the World Health Organization, poor sleep (and more specifically sleep deprivation) can lead to physical health effects (such as hypertension and diabetes), cognitive impairments (such as a deterioration of performance and attention), and also affects mental health (such as depression and anxiety).
Getting a good night’s sleep has several hidden benefits. While good sleep alone does not guarantee good health, it does help maintain the body. Some research suggests that good sleep is like a “reset” button at the end of every day - it helps to promote healthy brain activity and also maintain overall health.
A recent study on the brain, published in the journal Science, suggests that the brain “flushes” itself in the night to remove toxins. Another recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine reports the benefits of a good night’s sleep on the immune system and more specifically on T cells that help protect against viruses and cancers. Good sleep also can boost immunity, help you lose weight, improve sex drive, and boost mental wellbeing.
The Relationship Between Poor Sleep And Productivity
When stress levels are high and there is too much work to be done, sleep is usually the thing to take a back seat. However, bad sleep can seriously impact productivity, performance, and the safety outcomes of an individual. You’ve probably noticed it yourself, you’re more likely to struggle to get through work if you haven’t been able to do much work. Your driving is probably subpar after a bad night’s sleep too.
In a 2018 study of more than 1000 participants, published in Sleep, low productivity levels were associated with poor sleep. Similarly, another study suggested that poor sleep led to difficulties in cognitive functioning. This review study published in Sleep Medicine Reviews concluded that “individuals with insomnia exhibit performance impairments for several cognitive functions, including working memory, episodic memory and some aspects of executive functioning.”
Poor sleep also leads to more mistakes being made at work. This is illustrated by a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 2004. The study was conducted on medical interns, which showed that interns working more than 24 hours make 36% more serious medical errors. A report by Hult Ashbridge shows that young professionals are the most affected by sleep loss with 75% reporting that a lack of sleep affects their physical and mental health which made them less focused at work.
Getting a good night’s sleep has also been shown to improve productivity. More specifically, good sleep improves problem-solving skills and enhances memory in adults and children. In fact, sleep is linked to the formation and retention of pathways in the brain that help learn new things and create new memories.
Tips For Better Sleep
Because sleep is so intrinsically linked to good health and productivity, we must try to get better sleep. Here, we provide some workable tips for better sleep.
- Restrict use of screens before bed
- Consider a bedtime routine
- Reduce caffeine intake after 4 pm
- Consider exercise during the day
- Quit smoking and reduce alcohol consumption
- Consider a relaxing bath/shower before you sleep
- Keep a consistent bedtime schedule