Sleep: the Ultimate Productivity Hack?
In our fast-paced world, we’re always looking for new ways to boost productivity, maximise performance, and do more with less. But for all the latest productivity hacks out there, perhaps the most effective fix is the simplest of all – more sleep.
We all know that a good night’s sleep can work wonders, yet so many of us continue to neglect this most basic of needs. As we try to fit the gym, a social life, and everything else alongside our hectic professional lives, sleep is often the first thing that we sacrifice.
But this is totally counterproductive – without the right amount of sleep, everything else you do will suffer. With today being World Sleep Day, what better time to highlight this hugely important, yet often neglected, issue.
Are you getting enough?
Most experts advise that adults get between seven and nine hours’ sleep per night, but this differs from person to person. You’ll know if you can function on seven hours, or if that’s simply not enough.
These numbers can be misleading, however, as the quality of sleep matters just as much as the quantity. Eight hours in bed almost never means eight hours of restful sleep.
Worryingly, a survey by The Sleep Council found that less than a third of Brits (29%) got the recommended amount, with one-third of the population (33%) surviving on between five and six hours per night.
This means that over two-thirds of us are waking up each morning unable to perform at our best – a scary statistic for employees and employers alike.
Sleep and productivity
You can read all the latest tips for boosting productivity and performance, but nothing will work if you are sleep deprived. The quality of your sleep dictates the quality of your day. If you don’t get enough, or if the sleep you do get is disturbed, you’ll never be at your best at work.
Sleep deprivation affects our ability to think clearly, concentrate, and memorise, making even the simplest tasks an uphill battle. And if you work in a hazardous environment, a lack of sleep makes accidents far more likely.
Make no mistake, sleep – or the lack thereof – is a critical workplace issue. In fact, you could say that going to bed at a reasonable time is the most effective thing you can do to ensure a more productive, enjoyable day tomorrow.
Sleep and mood
If you’ve ever suffered a sleepless night, you’ll know how miserable it can make you feel the next day. Not only are you physically exhausted, but mentally out of sorts too.
Worse still, a lack of shut-eye can have a hugely negative effect on mood, making us more stressed, irritable and negative. In the long-term, a lack of sleep can contribute to serious mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression.
So what can we do to ensure a better night’s sleep?
Each of us has a responsibility to get to bed at a reasonable hour. This means making sleep a priority, and recognising that a good night’s sleep is the foundation for a positive and productive waking life.
If you struggle to sleep, try meditating or relaxation techniques before bed – and avoid staring at a screen all evening. Exercise is also an excellent way to boost energy during the day and ensure healthy sleep at night.
You could even buy a fitness tracker that not only measures your activity during the day but also the time you spend in various sleep stages at night. This will give you a clear picture of both the quantity and the quality of sleep you are getting.
Sleep problems are often caused by underlying stress or anxiety – according to The Sleep Council report, almost half of respondents (47%) claimed that stress and worry keep them awake at night. Work is naturally one of the biggest potential stressors in our lives, so if you find yourself worrying about work to the point of not sleeping, it sounds like something about your job needs to change.
Whatever the underlying issue is, talk to your manager and see what can be done to make work a less stressful place to be. And remember – your wellbeing should always come first.
What can organisations do to promote healthy sleep?
It’s important that managers and business leaders recognise that poor sleep can have a huge impact on performance and that low productivity and mood are not always the result of laziness or a bad attitude.
It’s also important that employers recognise the link between work-related stress and poor sleep, and take responsibility for creating an environment where employees can discuss their concerns openly, without fear of negative consequences.
This approach only works if you are also willing to adjust the conditions of their work. This might mean allowing a degree of flexibility around where and when employees are expected to work, reducing their workload, or developing certain skills to better equip them to handle their tasks.
Some organisations are even experimenting with the idea of allowing employees a place to doze at work. Google, for example, introduced high-tech sleep pods several years ago to encourage employees to take power naps throughout the day, with the aim of boosting creativity and productivity.
While allowing employees to take a strategic nap between meetings might suit some, for others it will suggest a further blurring of the boundaries between work and our private lives, or an excuse to have employees working longer hours.
Put sleep first
If you are part of the majority of people who aren’t getting enough sleep, isn’t it time you put sleep first?
Whether it’s talking to someone about professional stress, getting more exercise during the day, or simply getting to bed at a reasonable time, there’s always something you can do.
A lack of sleep is proven to affect you in pretty much every way – physically, mentally, and emotionally. Just imagine how much more you could achieve – and how much better you’d feel – if you put sleep at the top of your agenda.