The Value of a Good Night’s Sleep

Drowsy work is Dangerous work.  In addition to the danger, sleep deprivation costs businesses over $100 Billion each year in lost performance.  How can you as an employee take steps to improve your sleep each night? This article from Nova Medical Centers could save your career.

Sleep Debt and Performance

In studying how important sleep is to an individual, we looked at studies focused on how much sleep you really need.  The study, provided by researchers at the Washington State University and University of Pennsylvania, tested 48 healthy men and women averaging 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night.  The study broke individuals into the following groups:

  • Group 1: No Sleep for 72 Hours
  • Group 2: Slept for 4 Hours per Night
  • Group 3: Slept for 6 Hours per Night
  • Group 4: Slept for 8 Hours per Night

Groups 2, 3, and 4 were held to the sleep patterns for 2 weeks. During the Study, groups receiving 4 hours and 6 hours showed consistent declines in attention span, cognitive abilities, and motor skills. In addition to this, researchers noticed the following two trends:

  • Sleep debt is a cumulative issue. In the words of the researchers, sleep debt “has a neurobiological cost which accumulates over time.” After one week, 25 percent of the six-hour group was falling asleep at random times throughout the day. After two weeks, the six-hour group had performance deficits that were the same as if they had stayed up for two days straight.
  • Participants didn’t notice their own performance declines. When participants graded themselves, they believed that their performance declined for a few days and then tapered off. In reality, they were continuing to get worse with each day. In other words, we are poor judges of our own performance decreases even as we are going through them.

In the real world, well-lit office spaces, social conversations, caffeine, and a variety of other factors can make you feel fully awake even though your actual performance is sub-optimal. You might think that your performance is staying the same even on low amounts of sleep, but it’s not.

And even if you are happy with your sleep-deprived performance levels, you’re not performing optimally.

Trading Time Awake at the Expense of Performance?

The irony of it all is that many of us are suffering from sleep deprivation so that we can work more, but the drop in performance ruins any potential benefits of working additional hours.

As Gregory Belenky, Director of the Sleep and Performance Research Center at Washington State University, puts it: “Unless you’re doing work that doesn’t require much thought, you are trading time awake at the expense of performance.”

Generally speaking, experts agree that 95 percent of adults need to sleep 7 to 9 hours each night to function optimally. Most adults should be aiming for eight hours per night. Children, teenagers, and older adults typically need even more.

How to Make up for Lost Sleep

The body is incredibly adept at making up for a short-term lack of sleep. In fact, even if you got a brutal 2 or 4 hours of sleep last night, your body can usually recover fully if you get a solid 9 or 10 hours of sleep tonight. Your body will simply spend more time in REM and slow wave sleep cycles the second night to make up for the first.
There is a limit on this recovery process, of course. Your body will do the best it can, but it will never be able to turn a deficit into a surplus. If you want to recover from a night of little sleep, you need to follow it with more sleep than usual.

7 Ways to Improve Sleep

What can you do to improve your sleep? How can you increase the time spent in deep sleep or REM stages? Take the following 7 tips:

  1. Avoid Caffeine/No Coffee after Noon: If you’re having trouble falling asleep, eliminating caffeine from your diet is a quick win.  If coffee is a necessity, minimize intake after noon.
  2. Quit Tobacco Use: Poor sleep is a side effect of tobacco use.
  3. Exercise: When it comes to sleep, exercise will make it easier for your brain and body to power down at night.
  4. Sleep in a Cool Room: Most people sleep best in a cool room. The ideal range is usually between 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (18 to 21 degrees Celsius).
  5. Use the Bedroom for Sleep and Sex: Don’t make your bedroom a multi-purpose room. Eliminate TVs, laptops, electronics, and clutter.
  6. Create a Sleep Schedule: Find time to wind down at the end of each day, including a powering down point in which you turn off all electronics.
  7. Practice Relaxation and Meditation: Follow these relaxation exercises to help reduce stress.

Getting enough sleep is pivotal to improving your productivity and performance in the workplace.  Remember, the worst judge of productivity according to the study was the individual being studied, so don’t let your lack of sleep affect your chance at promotion.
Nova Medical Centers hopes that this information will help you to improve your sleep techniques and increase your productivity in the workplace. We hope that this article serves you well.  Please share this with anyone who feels sleep deprivation is the way to go.  We thank Entrepreneur Magazine for the full article, the Beginner’s Guide to Getting Better Sleep.  Learn more about Circadian rhythms, the sleep-wake cycle, and more by visiting their blog.
Please contact us for more information on improving workplace health or visit our careers section to see what jobs we have available.

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