The 2008 Sleep in UK Poll indicated that on top of a 9.5-hour workday, Brits spend over four hours each week working from home. Sadly, more work means less sleep. The same poll indicated that respondents slept an hour and a half less on workdays than on non-workdays.
Work schedules and stress can impact sleep, but so can sleep. If you’ve ever dozed asleep at your desk or during a crucial meeting, you know how sleep loss affects job performance. Sleep deprivation can make you sluggish, less creative, and less focused on essential assignments.
How does Sleep Affect Work?
Sleep promotes practically every biological system1. Our eyelids close, our breathing slows, and our muscles relax. The brain’s neurons go to sleep2, allowing several biological processes to rejuvenate our body and mind. A good night’s sleep is essential for our bodies’ cardiovascular and immunological systems, as well as our capacity to focus, learn, and regulate our emotions.
The British are notoriously sleep-deprived. While the National Sleep Foundation3 advises 7–9 hours of sleep for most individuals, the CDC4 reports that about a third of Britons receive less than that. A 2007 survey of US workers5 indicated that approximately 38% of employees reported weariness at work in the previous two weeks.
Loss of Sleep Effects
Loss of sleep can impair focus, attention, and vigilance6. Trying to stay awake when feeling tired drains mental energy, making it harder to focus on long activities or those requiring attention; this loss of focus may be linked to microsleeps7, which are brief (0.5-15 second) periods of non-responsiveness that produce attention lapses.
Sleep deprivation increases the risk of mistakes and omissions8, partly due to slower reaction times9. Tired personnel take longer to react to stressful situations and are more prone to make mistakes. Poor reaction times might lead to missed phone calls or sluggish conversation responses. Slow reaction times can save lives in other professions, including physicians, firefighters, and truck drivers.
Sleep Deprivation’s Economic Impact
Fatigue costs employers billions of dollars every year. Fatigue-related losses in productivity, motivation, and health care expenses total roughly $1,967 per employee each year12. Fatigue at work costs US corporations approximately $136.4 billion a year13.
Bridging the Work-Home Gap
The increasing connection has made working remotely simpler than ever, blurring the lines between work and home. People may compromise personal needs to complete more job duties if the work-life balance is inadequate. Studies show that being able to disengage from work14 after-hours mentally helps reduce work-related stress.
Many occupations blur the lines between work and home life owing to excessive expectations or the nature of the employment. Doctors, on-call professionals, and telecommuters are frequently reachable via email, text, or instant message. Working during a regular sleep period is common for industrial employees, nurses, pilots, and other shift workers.
If lack of sleep is causing you to be overtired at work, it’s time to change. Consistent, quality sleep can improve work performance, reduce reaction time, and increase motivation. Here are some suggestions for prioritizing sleep to improve job effectiveness.
Prioritize, find wiggle room, improve sleep hygiene, and see your doctor.
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