Humans sleep for one-third of their lives. Since this is fact, and not fiction, believing that the quality of your sleep is not important is delusional. It’s not always about sleeping too much or too little (although this can certainly be an issue). Oftentimes, the issue is regarding the quality of sleep that you are getting each night. Do you wake up in the middle of the night frequently? Is your sleep shallow? Are you easily startled awake? How is your REM cycle? These answers are important to review because studies have found that they can affect everything from happiness, to your sex life to even to the money in your pocket.
Risks of poor quality sleep
Yes, yes. We all know that lack of sleep will give you the grumps and make you want to throw scalding coffee on your chatty co-worker at nine in the morning. But the risks are far less benign than a mere case of the grumpies. It can severely get in the way of your quality of work.
Poor sleep causes accidents. Poor sleep has been the cause of some pretty major disasters in history. Don’t believe me? Pick up a textbook and see for yourself. No, wait, I’ll do the work for you. Here are three, for your shock-ified pleasure: the 1979 nuclear accident at Three Mile Island, the massive Exxon Valdez oil spill, and the 1986 nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl. Now, chances are you aren’t in possession of nuclear launch codes, but if sleeplessness can cause issues for the world, they can definitely cause issues for your work-world. Sleeplessness can lead to careless mistakes in the papers you write, essential tasks forgotten, injuries on the job, and increased sick days taken.
Here are some other possible side effects!
Poor sleep dumbs you down. Studies have shown low sleep-quality impairs attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning and problem-solving. If you do not happen to screw up via completely botching a task, or by simply forgetting, you can be sure that your low-quality sleep habits are dumbing you down. If you’re super super freakin’ smart, it might go unnoticed. You might just seem normal. If you’re just the average person like everybody else however … You might, if not end up looking like this, at least performing like this:
The dreaded depression has been studied, and observed, with very high visibility, in those who have poor sleep schedules. Depression, in turn, has been studied, and found to affect cognition, work ethic, ability to focus and to learn new material, as well as a ton of other work-hindering effects. Plus you go through tons of ice cream.
Forgetfulness is rarely tolerated on the job. If you don’t have those papers in by Friday, or if you miss that meeting, or if you forget your part of the presentation, then you don’t just get a D instead of an A grade. You get canned. This isn’t college, it is the real world, after all. The sad news is that lack of quality sleep plays a major role in causing acute forgetfulness, but “I didn’t sleep” really is not a credible excuse in the workplace!
Risk-taking abounds not just in the entrepreneurial populace but in the sleep-deprived or sleep-quality-deprived populace. When you are tired, you are more likely to want to take “the easy way out.” That means taking risks. And while risks are sometimes worth it, they better be calculated risks, or you’re going to pay big time. Well, your bank account is going to pay big time.
Oh yeah, one more thing: studies have shown that those who cut their sleep from seven to five hours or fewer a night nearly doubled their risk of death from all causes.
Now the good part — the benefits
Basically, take the negative side of not sleeping and reverse the whole thing. Just a complete 180-degree turn. But to show you just how good it can get for your career, let’s delve deeply into it.
Happy happy happy. Just like those who sleep too little or get poor-quality sleep are often much sadder or even depressed, those who sleep a quality amount (7-8 hours) and get quality-level sleep are much happier. The studies bear it out, but do I really need to cite data to prove that being happier makes you inclined to work harder, stay later and fight longer for that promotion?
Less money spent at the doctors! People who score high on a “sleepiness scale” use 11 percent more health care resources than their well-rested counterparts. Sleep troubles caused by sleep apnea and insomnia cost the U.S. billions of dollars in direct medical costs every year, and that’s even before taking into account the associated lost productivity.
You’ll speak more articulately, and everyone knows the value of a smoothtalker who has something substantive to say. They are universally beloved, especially by the boss! Staying awake too long can cause slurred speech, repetitive word usage, and a slow, monotonous tone. So, make sure to get some rest before your next presentation.
Productivity will improve if your sleep quality is good, studies show. Researchers say that “attention tasks appear to be particularly sensitive to sleep loss.” So if you want to focus — either on a job or a conversation — make sure to get some rest.
Irritability is certainly not just a minor nuisance. And it goes down when you are well rested. Irritability can make you get on the bad side of your family, your coworkers and definitely your boss. Say goodbye to that long sought-after promotion!
- Ask yourself if you’re sleepy to start. This can be a pretty suitable determinant of whether you get enough sleep, and if your sleep is high- or low-quality (in case you don’t know yourself).
- If you determined your sleep is poor, for the next week, keep a sleep diary and write down how many times you wake up in the night, when you wake up in the morning, when you go to bed at night, and even note if you are sleepy throughout the day and when. Pinning down these details can be very insight-gaining.
- Stop napping. Even though it is temporarily a nice relief, it will do you in and screw up your circadian rhythm in the long run.
- Exercise more, as studies have shown that those who exercise sleep better than those who are more sedentary.
- Avoid caffeine after noon. Do it! Resist! You’re sleep cycle will thank you, and even when your sleep duration doesn’t suffer due to caffeine intake, studies have shown that sleep quality in fact does.
- Don’t overimbibe or over-eat late at night (and no I don’t mean water). Although alcohol makes you sleepy at times, it will actually keep you waking up throughout the night and disturb your sleep cycle).
- Try to quit smoking, as nicotine is a stimulant, just like caffeine. Tobacco can keep you from falling asleep and make insomnia worse.
- Know when to see a doctor. Sleeplessness or low-quality sleep can be the result of health conditions such as acid reflux, arthritis, asthma or depression.
If you try a few of these methods and it doesn’t improve your sleep, don’t despair. Just try a few more! There are a ton of things you can do to improve sleep, and a lot of methods out there. Many of which really work. So keep trying! But if you’ve tried a million things a million times and still nothing seems to work, then it might be time to pay a visit to your doctor. Not only your health and your mood, but your paycheck, will thank you.
Have something to add to this story? Comment below or join the discussion on Facebook.
Header image: ShutterStock