If the words "sleep" and "work" used together have you day dreaming about taking a cat nap at your keyboard, you might be in need of a better night's rest before you start your 9-5. Have you ever headed into the office after not quite enough sleep and felt yourself fading? Or ever noticed that your least productive weeks at work are the same weeks you're pulling all nighters? It's a no brainer that not enough sleep will leave you feeling crabby and desperate for a double cappuccino before 9am the next day - but have you ever considered why?
Recent research has shown fatigue at work can lead to poor judgment, lack of self-control, and impaired creativity - and no matter what it is you're doing to bring home the bacon, that's kind of a recipe for disaster. Further to this, this research also shows that sleep deprivation doesn’t just hurt individual performance - it's bad news for managers too, because when they lose sleep, their employees’ experiences and output are also diminished.
You might be thinking this is no big issue - after all, if you're being paid on the clock, does it really matter if you're losing a few productive hours a day? Unfortunately, you'd be wrong. A study by the Sleep Health Foundation found the total cost of inadequate sleep in Australia was estimated to be $66.3 billion in 2016 – 17, mainly due to the impact on health & productivity. Another research paper found a one-hour increase in your deep sleep cycle increases wages by 16% due to your increase in productivity (meaning, work gets done faster - more time for Friday night cocktails).
There's also a high chance you're not really impressing your boss by coming into work tired. It's been proven getting enough rest is key for cementing what you’ve learned during the day - If you're sleep-deprived, you have a higher chance of having a poorer working memory, compared with those who are getting an ideal amount of sleep. You'll also make fewer mistakes on the right amount of sleep - even if you're moderately sleep-deprived, you'll have a 50% slower response time and a lower accuracy rate on simple tasks than someone who's under the influence of alcohol.
All in all, it seems like getting enough hours of rest at night is probably easier than trying to explain to your boss why you're slower than a sloth on a Monday morning. So, how can you make sure you're well enough rested for a full day of work?
There are the essentials: for instance, sticking to a regular sleep/wake cycle, avoiding alcohol, nicotine and caffeine before bed time, and integrating mindfulness exercises into your sleep ritual. It's been said time and time and again, but research also shows switching off your smartphone (and basically any other screen) before bed time is crucial for regulating your levels of melatonin - bad news for Netflix bedtime bingers, but good news for your work productivity. If banning screens close to bed time is really not practical, you could try using blue light blocking glasses to reduce the effects.
You may also notice that your sleep is fragmented - for example, although you're in bed for 8 hours a night, you might notice that you're tossing and turning as you worry about the tasks of the next day, and only end up getting less than 6 hours. With this in mind, you should try techniques and signals to help you wind down and be ready for sleep by the time you get to bed, such as taking a relaxing warm bath or diffusing some essential oils by your bed.
Integrating little habits like into your evening routine are an important part of building a sleep ritual, which is essential to helping you get a better night's rest. You can read all about the power of a sleep ritual here.