By Paula R. Pienaar, Sleep Scientist from SSISA Sleep Science in collaboration with MySleep
We all have days where we go to work feeling tired, or reach our productivity threshold earlier than we would wish. We watch the clock ticking away and feel as though the day will never end. A suboptimal sleep pattern which includes sleeping for too long or too short; waking up frequently during the night; or simply having an inconsistent sleep routine may be to blame (provided that you have no underlying chronic medical condition).
In fact, various studies have shown that
Moreover, sleep deprivation may increase the risk of mortality by 13% and is associated with the loss of 1.2 million working days a year, according to a study by RAND (“Research and Development”) corporation.
There is good news though: researchers at the University of Chicago reported that working adults getting 7 or 8 hours of sleep per night had a lower risk for chronic disease, were absent less, and were more productive at work than other employees, even when taking into account demographic differences and factors such as job type and work shift. So, what exactly happens to our work performance when we have a poor sleep profile? Below are four ways with which poor sleep affects work performance:
Lack of sleep has shown to suppress our immune system, making it easier for us to get sick and more difficult to recover from illness. Longer term consequences of sleep disturbances (duration and/or quality) are related to many chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, overweight and obesity, chronic stress and psychological problems.
You may be getting enough time in bed, but often what is perceived as adequate sleep duration, may in fact be marred by frequent awakenings and therefore lead to poor sleep quality. This ultimately prevents your body from the gaining the benefits of a good night’s rest. Poor sleep quality reduces concentration, decision making ability, and lowers one’s ability to solve problems – all factors that make us more productive and effective at work.
In a US survey addressing sleep health in employees, those with difficulty sleeping “often” or “always” were more likely to have additional health care costs of $3600 to $5200 per person per year more than those who “never” have sleep problems. Alarmingly, these costs increased over time if sleep became worse. Factors contributing to the economics of an organization include:
Limiting your sleep for just a week, is enough to make you feel more stressed, angry, sad, and mentally exhausted. Poor sleep as a result of suboptimal duration, quality and consistency impair the emotional regulation needed for healthy interactions amongst co-workers in such a way that it:
Solutions to combat sleepiness and fatigue in the workplace
Increased work demands create a cycle resulting in extended business hours - people are less productive at work because they're tired, thus taking their work home, only to have it interfere with their sleep. Companies therefore play a vital role in providing supportive options to manage fatigue and sleep health. For example, consideration can be given to whether company policies promote a more flexible lifestyle that allows for adequate, consistent sleep. Travel arrangements could be flexible to minimize sleep disruption. Employers and other organizations may wish to incorporate sleep education into their overall health and wellness strategy and institute sleep-friendly corporate policies discouraging late night text-messaging, WhatsApp groups, and emails.
If you feel that your daytime functioning has been affected by poor sleep duration or quality, it is recommended to visit your general practitioner whom can refer and guide you to sleep health professionals for further investigation.