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Julie Tucker
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How sleep can enhance work productivity

Sleeping well is a far better way of improving your performance compared with keeping to-do lists and drinking extra cups of coffee!

Many things can impact our sleep, whether it’s a hectic work schedule or stress in general. If you’ve ever felt sluggish while sitting at your desk, or you’ve felt like you were in danger of nodding off during an important meeting, this is a sure sign of sleep deprivation.

As well as feeling generally tired due to a lack of sleep, sleep deprivation can also leave you feeling less creative and lacking motivation. You’ll find it difficult to remain focused on important projects.

Drive is one of the most important factors for success in the workplace, especially if you’re working independently within a coworking space. Being your own boss and not having a manager monitoring your performance is a situation where being self-motivated is crucial.

How does sleep affect work?

Sleep supports almost every system in the body. The neurons in our brain switch to their sleeping state, launching the vital biological process that refreshes our body and mind. This rejuvenation boosts our cardiovascular and immune systems. It also aids our ability to learn new information, think clearly and manage our emotions.

The average adult needs between seven to nine hours of sleep every night, according to the National Sleep Foundation, yet around one-third of us average less than six hours. Fatigue has an impact on workplace performance: research suggests that 38% of employees suffer at work due to a lack of sleep.

Trying to work while overtired means the brain’s neurons become overworked. This impairs our thinking, slows down our physical reaction time and leaves us feeling drained emotionally; wreaking havoc on our work schedule.

Trying to stay awake while feeling drowsy takes more mental energy. We take longer to complete tasks, in particular those that require more intense concentration. People are more likely to suffer momentary episodes when our attention lapses altogether for a few seconds at a time.

We feel irritable, angry and more vulnerable to stress. In stressful situations in the workplace, our emotional reaction is likely to be amplified. This can lead to overreacting at inappropriate times. This stress and irritability can carry over into our home life.

If sleep deprivation continues over a longer period, it can have even more damaging health consequences. It can lead to cognitive decline and an increased risk of heart disease, according to scientific research.

How to get to sleep

If a lack of sleep is causing you to be excessively tired in the office, it could be time to make some changes. So, how can you get better quality, consistent sleep?

Many people sacrifice sleep to finish off work, sitting up late working on their laptop. Others watch television, or go out socialising. If you’re burning the candle at both ends for any reason, it’s time to reassess your priorities. These activities are not worth the side effects caused by sleep deprivation.

Rather than sitting up watching TV into the night, or scrolling social media feeds on your mobile phone, try to do more relaxing activities to promote more restful sleep. Optimise your bedroom environment, such as making sure your bed is as comfortable as possible. You may need a new mattress, or some cosy new bedding, in order to sleep more soundly.

Fine-tune your bedtime routine, perhaps by having a soak in the bath and a cup of cocoa every night. Eliminate any habits that stop you from falling asleep – mobile devices with their bright screen can keep your brain over-active and make it more difficult to nod off.

Avoid excessive nap-times, especially after 4 pm. If you’ve had an early-evening nap, it may make it harder to fall asleep at night. The same goes for drinking excessive caffeine close to bedtime.

If you’re really struggling to sleep, have a word with your doctor, who will have experience in helping people with insomnia. Your GP might be able to refer you to a sleep specialist, or create a plan to improve your sleep habits and manage work-related fatigue.

Can you have too much sleep?

Surprisingly, too much sleep can also have a negative impact, so it’s important that you get the balance right. If you’re sleeping too much, such as more than nine hours per night, it could mean the quality of your sleep is poor, so you’re spending more time in bed as your body tries to get deeper restorative sleep.

While a lack of sleep can have a negative impact on our performance at work, the other extreme, too much sleep, can be just as damaging. Too many Zs can lead to depression, increased inflammation of joints, a higher risk of obesity and a greater risk of diabetes.

The secret is to find a happy medium and try to get enough good quality sleep to see you through the next day.

 

© StoryTime Studio / Shutterstock.com

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