The link between sleep & business performance

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Do you find yourself working 18-hour workdays? And how much sleep do you find yourself having each night? You should know that you ought to be spending around 1/3 of your life asleep…

Australians currently work the longest hours out of all countries in the developed world. Business owners are now recognising that not enough sleep will impact their team’s creativeness, work ethic and problem solving. They are therefore having to come up with more and more rewards to boost their employees’ productivity and to make sure they retain the best workers in the competitive marketplace we see today.

Research, of course, shows that sacrificing sleep is a big mistake; greatly impacting productivity and performance in the workplace. In Australia alone, sleep disorder treatments are costing over $5 billion per year!

The modern work culture (sometimes) promotes the idea that sleeping is a waste of valuable time. Therefore, as business owners, you are in the position to encourage the importance of proper sleep, and you need to promote this properly, so next time think to yourself if it is really suitable to email your employees at 8pm, well after they have gone home for the evening?

 

Why work needs you to sleep and why you need to sleep to work

Enough sleep enables you to make better decisions, focus and perform better at work. Scientists have even found that if you are critically sleep deprived, your body will just fall asleep wherever and whenever it chooses; not a good look in a meeting I can assure you!

To perform better at work, the advice is now to limit or avoid stimulants such as caffeine; which is actually a type of drug. The more you use it to stay awake, the more your body relies on it to, you guessed it, stay awake. It’s a vicious cycle.

If you are a business owner who still is burning the candle at both ends, remember it is neither responsible nor respectful for your team, who are (hopefully) trying to get more sleep for your and your business’s behalf, to not do the same.

 

Sleep deprivation can cause the following problems:

  • Lack of alertness: Under 6 hours per night will cause lack of attentiveness and energy
  • Strange moods: Unstable moods and even random bursts of happiness, anger, sadness, depression (fun for your office-mates, I’m sure)
  • Compromised memory: Processing simple information can & will become a difficult task
  • Possible illnesses: Impaired immune function is a biggie, so is the possible development of certain cancers and high blood pressure
  • Danger to yourself & others: Excessive sleepiness can cause the brain to lapse into short episodes of sleep called ‘micro sleeps’ wherever and whenever it chooses (great in meetings and whilst driving home)
  • Weight gain: Lack of sleep can trigger imbalances in metabolism, leading to increased risk of weight gain and depression (think of the work-suits!)
  • Appearance: Yes, sleep deprivation can even affect your appearance in that you may develop dark circles around the eyes and premature wrinkles (not a good look).

Sleeping helps our brain to process and store information and memories, and our bodies to grow, synthesize and repair. Have you ever thought that one of the reasons children are able to learn and grow so fast is perhaps why their natural need for sleep is so much greater than adults? Take a leaf out of their book and sleep more!

 

How much sleep do we really need?

Australia’s National Sleep Foundation has set the guideline for adults (18-64 years of age) to sleep an average of 7-9 hours per night. Sleeping 6 or 10 hours won’t kill you, and some people might even need this much, but the average population needs around 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night.

Naps are proving more and more beneficial for business owners. A 20 minute lunch-time nap, when done right, is a perfect pick-me-up (even better than a Grande Americano!)

How to sleep better (for work of course)

If getting enough sleep doesn’t come naturally to you, there are a few extra tweaks that could send you off to nap-land sooner than you can count your 3rd sheep:

  • Banish distractions: TVs, iPods/pads/phones and laptops all give off a blue light which affects the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin
  • Keep it regular: A regular sleep schedule will make it easier to fall asleep and also to wake up
  • Keep it cool: A dark and cool room will assist your sleeping no end
  • Avoid caffeine in the evening: this gives your three o’clock cappuccino enough time to wear off before you need to rest
  • Keep it quiet: A quiet room with no distractions is ideal
  • Alcohol & tobacco: Did you know your beloved durries can keep you awake? And alcohol is a dangerous circle whereby the odd tipple before bed can assist you to fall asleep, however the quality of sleep is negatively impacted
  • Relax, don’t stress: Avoiding stress, such as work, before bed and not stressing about anything whilst falling asleep (try writing it down to stress about it in the morning) can help you fall asleep
  • Have a schedule: Go to bed and wake up around the same time every day
  • Exercise: A 30 minute walk, for example, in the evening will help tire you out and fall asleep faster than if you were watching TV on the couch

And as for catching up on lost sleep, you can do so by getting more shut-eye the next night, however it is not recommended on a regular basis. Your body will naturally spend more time in deep REM sleep to make up for not enough sleep the night before. Harvard Medical School states the following: ‘At any age, most adults need seven and a half to eight hours of sleep to function at their best. Since older people often have trouble attaining this much sleep at night, they frequently supplement night time sleep with daytime naps. This can be a successful strategy for accumulating sufficient total sleep over a 24-hour period. However, if you find that you need a nap, it’s best to take one midday nap, rather than several brief ones scattered throughout the day and evening’

 

How to go to work bursting with energy

Of course, the best way to be bursting of energy is to get enough sleep, but you can also try drinking a big glass of water when you wake up, even drop some lemon juice in there for a tangy twist and getting some sunlight to wake up your circadian rhythm and brain.

As we can see, there is an absolute must for sleep. Without it, we can start hallucinating and then die. The word critical is perfectly suitable for this. Sleep is critical! Without it, all those new business plans simply go out the window.

Annie x

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