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It’s that time of year – with spring well and truly here, the approach of summer has us all dusting off our exercise bikes and yearning for a life overhaul: a new haircut, a thorough house clean and inbox zero.
Much like an animal waking up from hibernation, you may well be tempted to shrug off sleep in order to make the most of these newfound daylight hours. However, if your first step towards self-improvement is becoming more productive, your ‘nightly hibernation’ may in fact help you reach your goal faster. In fact, sleeping might just be the most productive thing you do all day!
Crush your concentration
There was no way you were leaving that last episode of your new favorite sitcom unwatched last night but, as the cold light of day strikes your eyelids, you aren’t feeling quite so certain it was the best use of your time.
We’ve all done it and we’ve all suffered the consequences the following day – no surprise then that the results of the Great British Sleep Survey found poor sleepers to be 3 times more likely to struggle to concentrate and twice as likely to suffer from low productivity.
Even when we do manage to drag ourselves to bed at a sensible time our need for sleep, or ‘sleep pressure’, builds as each day progresses, making it increasingly difficult to remain alert, engaged and motivated – particularly when we’re working on a monotonous or complex task.
Sleep loss only enhances these effects, be it chronic or a one-off occurrence, it has been shown that our cognitive efficiency falls further the day following one night of less than 5 hours of sleep than it does after two days with no sleep at all.
You may as well be drunk
Okay…not really but depriving yourself of sleep does have the potential to be a serious workplace offense. One study in particular found the effects of sleep deprivation on a person’s mental performance to be comparable to the effects of alcohol consumption.
In fact, a report into one of the biggest workplace disasters in history, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, pointed to an important crew member’s “fatigue” and the failure of the shipping company to provide a “rested and sufficient crew” as contributors.
When you combine this with the antisocial behavior made more likely by our lowered inhibitions we’re really in no state to be charming our colleagues or impressing the boss.
If antisocial tendencies aren’t enough to persuade you to give in to your sleep drive – sleep deprivation is also likely to have a negative impact on your mood. In fact, research has shown that mood is worst hit by lack of sleep.
Being productive is an uphill battle even without having to power on through tasks whilst feeling blue. It isn’t just a cliché – happy workers are indeed productive workers.
Of course this doesn’t just apply to the workplace – when were you last smiles and sunshine after 4 hours of sleep?
A snail’s pace
Without adequate sleep our work performance becomes inefficient as it takes us longer to complete tasks. Worse still, the longer a task goes on, the poorer our cognitive efficiency becomes. As a result, the odds are against you when it comes to your chance of being on top of your workload.
Think you’re making up by multitasking? Studies have shown chronic sleep loss to lower our ability to multitask, which is less efficient than you might assume, even when well rested. Along with the effect on our working memory and speed, sleep loss deteriorates your accuracy so you may also find yourself spending more time correcting errors than completing tasks.
If you find yourself zoning out mid-sentence, or struggling to maintain focus during a meeting, you may be lapsing into microsleeps – brief periods of sleep which last only seconds but cause lapses in attention which are extremely detrimental to our productivity.
Unleash your productivity
Sleep isn’t an obstacle to fulfilling your ever-growing To Do list, it is in fact, integral to your productivity. So, when you hit the hay this evening, you can do so safe in the knowledge that you are enriching mind, body and soul.
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