Less Than 8 Hours of Sleep? How Your Routine Hurts the Quality of Your Work

sleep work

Sleep is an often overlooked secret to success – to start functioning at your optimal level institute a regular bedtime routine – it will ensure you get those Zs and wake to success.

Struggling to stay awake as the afternoon rolls in? It’s not only because your ch’i is busy working on that big lunch, quite simply you probably aren’t getting enough sleep. The latest research says that to function best we need 8 hours sleep. A lack of sleep impairs our judgment and clouds our ability to focus. Needless to say a lack of sleep is also bad for our health – too little sleep weakens the immune system and is linked with weight gain (Oddly too much sleep carries similar health issues as sleeping too little). It is standard for many executives to get less than the minimum 7 hours a night. So what does this mean? In short, your sleep deprivation will be hindering your success.

Also read: How To Achieve Peak Productivity Levels, Even While Procrastinating

So, how did Margret Thatcher famously run the UK on only 4 hours sleep? Research shows we are not giving our best cognitive performance when sleep deprived. Yes, we can function on less sleep, but are we giving our best work? It is likely that people who sleep less are simply unaware of how tired they are and the negative effects it is having on their performance that they appear to function perfectly. Arianna Huffington used to sleep 3-4 hours a night until a health scare attributed to exhaustion, now she is on a campaign to raise awareness of the chronic lack of sleep in business and how it is hindering success.

The proof is in the pudding and Arianna says her biggest growth of the Huffington Post happened after she slept more. It’s a myth that to succeed as an entrepreneur/executive you must endure burn out.

3 Ways Lack of Sleep Hinders Your Progress at Work:

  1. It hampers the decision making progress – ask any sleep deprived new mom – suddenly the simplest daily decisions become fraught.
  2. It clouds the ability to focus – what is wrong becomes the focus at work and you lose much needed clarity to progress. There is not enough coffee in the world to help your ability to process information and maintain focus when you are chronically tired.
  3. It increases impulsivity – listening to your impulses can be a good thing, but the reality is often risky. It also makes you less likely to listen to others.

Also read: 4 Keys to Making Smart Decisions

Keeping a regular bedtime and morning routine will stabilize your circadian rhythms – the body thrives on consistency. You can’t cheat when it comes to sleep, catching up on Zs over the weekend to make up for lost sleep during the week, or ‘sleep bulimia’ as Harvard Sleep expert Robert Stickgold calls it, actually makes it harder to get quality sleep. Sleeping in means come 10pm you can’t sleep – setting up a no-sleep cycle for the coming week.

Can’t get to bed early? Take a nap if the opportunity arises, it will remedy some of the ill effects of sleep deprivation. Talk show host Charlie Rose said he would rather take a nap than spend the time researching for an interview, as he found that the sleep provided the greater benefit for recall of memory. “Nature has not intended mankind to work from eight in the morning until midnight without that refreshment of blessed oblivion which, even if it only lasts twenty minutes, is sufficient to renew all the vital forces”(Winston Churchill).

Still not convinced that you are sleep deprived? For most of us feeling sleepy during a particularly prolonged meeting is a good sign you are probably not getting enough sleep. Get some sleep – you are not your productive, efficient and awesome self when you are tired.

Also read: 4 Reasons People Hate Going to Your Meetings

About the Author

Tatiana Compton is a freelance journalist who has covered accountancy and finance in both the UK and US.