We live in an “always on” era where hustle is worshipped and long hours “at the office” (or working online) is expected. Unfortunately, these long hours often come at the expense of quality sleep. Not getting enough sleep -- or not getting the right kind of sleep -- can have serious health consequences.
One report that outlined the results of research at Hult International Business School, The Wake-up Call: The importance of sleep in organizational life, shows how dramatic those impacts can be. We’ll look at some of those findings, along with insights from other professional research organizations to see just how your work might be impacted by sleep (or lack thereof).
Not getting enough sleep results in poorer performance and decreased productivity. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that adults get at least 7 hours of sleep each night. Unfortunately, the Hult study showed that professionals surveyed only clocked six hours and 28 minutes of sleep on average. While that’s just a half-hour below the recommended minimum, even 30 minutes can have effects on performance. Those surveyed reported that tiredness contributed to poorer work performance, including the inability to focus in meetings, tasks taking longer to complete, and struggles brainstorming.
The reality is that sleep deficits can become cumulative. That is, if you’re only getting six and a half hours of sleep every night, you’re missing out on a half-hour that snowballs into 3.5 hours of missed sleep each week. This leads to more missed productivity that kicks off a cycle that continues to get worse. As people’s work performance suffers, they tend to bring home the work they didn't finish. This leads to more missed sleep, and, well, you get the picture.
Sleep doesn’t just negatively impact your mental game; it can have significant physical effects, too. People who do not get enough sleep often feel lethargic most of the time. Some of the participant’s of the Hult study reported physical symptoms like heart palpitations and heartburn.
Sleep is tightly coupled with physical health. Lack of sleep can decrease immune function, which then makes you more susceptible to illness. Then we start seeing that cycle take effect again. If you’re sick all of the time, you get less done. In an attempt to get more done, many people forego the necessary sleep levels. It’s a never ending cycle. Long-term effects of sleep deprivation are even more severe. Chronic lack of sleep has been linked to serious medical conditions, including diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.
Sleep is closely tied to feelings and mood. Sleep deprivation over a long period can lead to some pretty significant psychological effects, including hallucinations, paranoia, mania, and memory loss. Those, in turn, impact one’s social life and emotional health. Interpersonal relationships can be easily damaged from lack of sleep. Communication becomes more challenging and operating within an organizational environment can become hard to navigate for a person who is tired all the time.
Additionally, moodiness, anxiety, and lack of focus caused by sleep deprivation makes maintaining friendships difficult. It can strain both professional and personal relationships as irritability increases as the amount of sleep decreases. This type of emotional and psychological environment can strain relationships and cause frustration between people. Strained relationships -- along with all of the other poor outcomes associated with lack of sleep -- can have a significantly detrimental effect on mental health and lead to lack of optimism, depression, and anxiety.
Lack of sleep isn’t just an inconvenience; it can lead to seriously dangerous outcomes due to the impacts on cognitive abilities. In other words, sleep deprivation can affect reaction time, judgment, perception, and one’s ability to make decisions. In some cases, lack of sleep can lead to cognitive changes that are akin to being intoxicated.
These cognitive impacts can lead to very dangerous situations. It can lead to accidents or human error during critical situations, like during surgery or transportation via road or air.
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