Sleep deprivation is a state caused due to insufficient quantity of sleep, that includes general sleeplessness and other sleep disorders.
Sleep is a physiological function that is as important as eating and drinking for every human being, but many people do not get adequate sleep.
Disturbances in the sleep-wake cycle result in sleepiness and fatigue during the daytime, which contributes to several physical and mental problems and increases the risk of many occupational health hazards.
The total quantity of sleep required is different for different persons but, at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep is said to be the average amount needed to function optimally.
The amount of sleep is also different based on one’s lifestyle and body constitution. It is essential to determine the various parameters, for example, work schedules and stress patterns to know how much sleep is actually necessary for an executive.
Research studies do not conclude the exact amount of sleep required for people across various age groups; however, a range reference can be very helpful in assessing the same.
The following chart shows the recommended sleep time required for different age groups:
– Younger adults (18-25 years): 7-9 hours
– Adults (26-64 years): Approximately 7-9 hours
– Older adults (65+ years): 7-8 hours
Women in their first trimester (first three months of pregnancy) need more sleep than usual.
The following are some of the most common symptoms of sleep deprivation.
– Incessant yawning
– Dozing off when not being active, like when watching television
– Feeling groggy in the morning on waking
– Sleep inertia wherein the manager feels tired and groggy throughout the day
– Mood swings and concentration
– Increased irritability
– Lack of motivation
– Inability to learn new things or concepts
– Clumsiness at work and home
– Craving for carbohydrate-rich foods and increased appetite
– Lack of sex drive
Causes of sleep deprivation are:
Jet lag is a type of sleep disorder wherein the normal circadian rhythm gets disrupted because of international air travel across several time zones. The body struggles to match up with the local time leading to complaints such as loss of sleep (also known as insomnia) and fatigue. Along with these symptoms, some people may also complain of anxiety, nausea, dizziness, and difficulty in concentration.
However, jet lag is a temporary condition, and individuals recover quickly depending upon the number of time zones traveled.
Professions that need an individual to work beyond the regular “9 to 5” schedule, such as the corporate employees, executives, managers, and entrepreneurs cause a shift in the sleep cycle. This leads to poor sleep patterns resulting in being drowsy and dull at work the next day.
The corporate sector is one of the most common places with the most erratic sleeping patterns. Factors related to the corporate sector that may lead to stress in executives include improper communication, peer pressure, non-completion of set targets and goals, no management structure in place, lack of participation in making decisions, or being controlled by superiors.
Individual expectations of the entrepreneur, failure of planning, or being impatient or too aggressive are also responsible. Factors like a monotonous job, unhealthy working relationships, or cut-throat competition to escalate up the hierarchy also causes stress in executive managers.
Many female executives complain of being deprived of sleep and extreme tiredness during the first and last three months of pregnancy. An increase in the level of the hormone progesterone can be one of the reasons for the lack of sleep and increased sleepiness during the daytime in female managers.
Hormonal changes may often cause snoring and sleep apnea in obese female corporate employees. Frequent trips to the bathroom at nighttime may also increase the risk of sleep deprivation in expectant working mothers. Other pregnancy-related discomforts like nausea, vomiting, midnight cravings, emotional upheaval, anxiety regarding the pregnancy, labor, delivery, work and parenthood balance, and change of relationship with their partner also increase the risk of sleep disorders.
It is essential that pregnant women executives pay attention to their sleep requirements to avoid complications. Parents of newborns often complain of sleep deprivation as they wake up frequently in the night for a feeding or calming the baby due to the baby’s erratic routine.
Certain medications can affect sleep cycles of many executive officers. In fact, sleep deprivation is one of the common side effects of many drugs. Pharmacological medicines prescribed for increased blood pressure, asthma, cough, anti-depressants, flu medications, anti-allergics, and antihistamines lead to sleepiness in the daytime. One of the important ways to improve sleep is to reduce the dosage of the medication after consulting the doctor.
Mental health and sleep are closely related to each other. Sleep deprivation affects the mental and psychological state of a corporate employee. Conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic attacks, and post-traumatic stress disorder lead to poor sleep patterns.
Several environmental conditions like light, noise, temperature, the comfort of one’s bed, and the use of electronic media play an important role in aiding one to achieve proper sleep and sleep wellness.
A study found that many adolescents who are addicted to electronic devices have shown daytime sleep-related disorders. The study also showed that these people slept very late in the night.
Workaholic entrepreneurs who work at odd hours working on their laptops, phones, browsing social media websites or the internet at night causes disturbed sleep.
The high decibels arising from roadside traffic, neighbors, or even quarrels in one’s own home disturb the sleeping patterns. Such instances cause managers, to stay awake in the night, which causes increased secretions of the stress hormones. Intermittent sounds like an occasional car honk tend to be more disturbing than continuous noise. This causes executives living in urban settings to suffer from chronic sleep deprivation, thus affecting their mood and concentration.
Sleep apnea is a term where the breathing is interrupted for short periods when they are asleep. Such breathing pauses jolt an individual out of their normal sleep state. Sleep apnea often becomes known when the bed partner complains of snoring.
Chronic sleep deprivation caused by sleep apnea leads to poor concentration, sleepiness in the daytime and an increased risk of accidents.
It may also cause mood swings, depression, and health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and liver disorders.
Corporate organizations do not realize the importance of sleeping well and on time and high profile managers, CEOs, tend to sleep very late or watch television after a tiring day or prefer networking or socializing with their friends.
Some corporate officers may also smoke or consume alcohol close to the bedtime which triggers the nervous system, leading to sleep deprivation. Even executives who are habitual coffee drinkers have trouble getting to bed.
Sleep deprivation is seen in employees who lie in bed and overthink and worry instead of relaxing and falling asleep.
Even an improperly made bed or a bedroom that is either too hot or too cold can affect their sleep.
Other health conditions that can also lead to sleep deprivation are:
– Loud snoring.
– Restless legs syndrome, a condition where there is an uncontrollable urge to move the legs.
– Narcolepsy, a disorder characterized by increased daytime sleepiness and episodes of falling asleep suddenly during the daytime.
The most important effect of sleep deprivation in corporate officers is increased sleepiness during daytime. Sleep-deprived executives tend to fall asleep when they are sitting still or are inactive for some time such as in a meeting.
Severe sleepiness can become a health hazard leading to drowsy driving and injuries at the workplace.
Sleep deprivation effects at the workplace are:
– Emotionally vulnerable and may explode at the slightest cause
– Lack of motivation
– Lack of concentration and focus
– Poor decision making
– Increased errors
– Easy distractibility
– Low energy
Other consequences of sleep deprivation are obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attacks, and stroke.
Sleep deprivation results in poor behavioral performance and a decline in cognitive functions. Executives with acute sleep deprivation tend to become normal after two nights of good sleep, whereas chronic/long-term sleep deprivation results in neurodegenerative disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Further studies are needed to study the mechanisms of the brain with respect to memory loss.
There is no solution to replace a good night’s sleep. The best way to deal with disturbed sleep is to improve sleep time at night to meet the biological sleep need.
Some strategies that can be used to train the body and mind to manage sleep deprivation are:
Focus on getting a minimum of 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night so that the executive is alert and fresh to handle daily demands. When an executive feels fresh after sleeping, they can make smarter decisions. Sleep also helps to enhance motivation and concentration in executives.
Change in sleeping attitude demands a huge commitment. Select a fixed time for sleeping and adhere to it as much as possible. Stay away from temptations like using the cell phone at night or playing video games, and scrolling through social media before bedtime. Set the alarm to remind that it is time for bed.
Sleep deprivation can lead to changes in the appetite as the mind becomes fatigued. This leads to unnecessary hunger pangs. It is important to eat healthy and consume the right amount of foods instead of aimless binging. Make efforts to cut down on caffeine, alcohol, stimulants, tobacco, chocolates.
It is helpful to set aside a little time before going to bed for techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, stretching, and imagery techniques that take away the focus from the worries and bring one into the present. An overactive mind is unable to sleep peacefully.
Create a soothing bedtime ritual such as taking a bath, reading a light book, listening to soft music, etc., ahead of sleeping. It is also helpful to maintain a diary or a journal to write about any changes that may be discovered.
Jet lag is a transient disorder and usually does not require any form of treatment. However, some adjustments help in overcoming jet lag while traveling by air.
Changing sleep and waking up timings gradually preceding air travel makes it easier to adjust to the jet lag. As the date of departure approaches, the sleep schedule should match that of the destination.
Sunlight helps to restore the body’s internal clock back to normal. Once the executive reaches the destination, it is best to venture out to be exposed to sunshine.
Melatonin supplements help in adjusting the circadian rhythm. Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland located in the brain and is released indicating that it is time to sleep. Even a small dose will stimulate sleep in a jet-lagged executive.
Coffee and alcohol are stimulants that prevent a corporate manager from falling asleep. It is recommended to avoid these substances during international air travel.
Exercising helps to adjust to the new time zones. Talking a brisk walk outdoors also serves a dual purpose by exposing the individual to sunlight as well.
If a corporate executive is traveling to an area without much natural sunlight, it is best to make use of special artificial light that helps the body adjust to a new time zone. A special light box, desk lamp, or visor can be used in the morning and afternoons to overcome jet lag.
Corporate managers, CEOs, who are partially sleep deprived, experience reduced attention span, concentration, vigilance, and memory. This leads to poor motivation and causes a decline in cognitive performance.
Effects of sleep deprivation on the attention span and concentration also depend on other factors like age, health, and stress.
Sleep deprivation affects the wellbeing of employees. Such corporate staff often find it hard to focus during meetings, take a longer time to complete tasks or are unable to generate new ideas or meet new challenges. Due to lack of creativity, there is also reduced motivation and management of daily tasks.
Management and corporate leaders often express negative emotions at work and hostile behavior to their subordinates due to a short night’s sleep. This is because sleep deprivation affects the parts of the brain associated with regulating one’s emotions.
Sleep deprivation causes a profound impact on one’s mood and emotions.
Sleep deficit puts a strain on important psychosocial relationships fostered at both at work and home.
It is evident that the effects of sleep deprivation can be detrimental in the workforce with a huge margin for error.
From being an occasional problem, sleep deprivation is a serious threat to mental and physical health and it is important to address such issues early to improve productivity at home and in the office.