Have you been experiencing an increase in moments of being short-tempered and a reduction in your focus and concentration at work? Do you always feel like you are dragging yourself out of bed each morning to work, without any real motivation? Have you ever wondered if this might be due to sleep deprivation?
Even though seven to eight hours of sleep is recommended for adults by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, a survey found that most professionals sleep for an average of just six hours and 28 minutes! It’s no surprise then that just like you, so many executives and high level CEOs experience lack of energy, poor focus and lower concentration while at work.
Sleep deficiency not only affects a person’s health but also their efficiency and performance at work. It can affect an individual’s image in an organization and their growth.
Today, we will share about how sleep deprivation can significantly impact our cognitive performance, affecting your comprehension, memory, knowledge, judgment, reasoning, problem-solving, and decision-making skills.
Sleep Deprivation Effects at the Workplace
Insufficient sleep can hamper your productivity by affecting the following factors:
1. Sleep Deprivation Effects on Memory
Many animal as well as human studies suggest that the duration and quality of sleep has a direct impact on your memory and learning ability. Learning and memory can be described as:
1. Acquisition: Introduction of new information to the brain, e.g., learning information.
2. Consolidation: The process of stabilization of the information, e.g., retaining the information.
3. Recall: Accessing the already stored information, e.g., reproducing the stored information during a test or when needed.
Although acquisition and recall occur only when you are awake, consolidation happens during sleep by strengthening the neural connections that are related to the formation of our memories. The exact mechanism of consolidation during sleep is unknown, but many researchers think that it is due to specific characteristics of the brainwaves.
Therefore, lack of sleep affects your neural connections in the brain in the long term and hampers your memory. So if you are not getting enough sleep, you are actually harming your brain in the long run!
2. Sleep Deprivation Effects on Thinking
Logical reasoning is the foundation of human rationality, which is the outcome of a methodical thinking process. Insufficient sleep directly dampens your logical reasoning and generating newer strategies, which is a necessity for higher order executive and managerial responsibilities.
A research study published in the Sleep Medicine determined the effects of insufficient sleep on an individual’s thought process. The statistical analysis of the self-made reports of 26 healthy participants indicated that there was a decrease in positive thinking ability after insufficient sleep. The reduced ability of thinking impairs your creativity, problem‑solving skills, decision-making ability, increasing the number of errors you make. It’s important to sleep enough to think on your feet!
3. Sleep Deprivation Effects on Concentration and Focus
Complete concentration and focus are what make your work perfect; however, insufficient sleep can disrupt your concentration and focus by reducing your attention span and causing daytime sleepiness. You may start feeling drowsy during important meetings with a client, negatively impacting your image as well as that of your organization. Sleep deprivation also makes you clumsy and easily distracted from work. Forgetfulness due to insufficient sleep and microsleeps (brief episodes of sleep) in a conference or during presentations or seminars can affect your performance to a significant extent.
The Institute of Clinical Neurophysiology, Slovenia, studied the effects of sleep deficit on concentration. It included a study of sleep deprivation on nine healthy individuals by applying pre and post sleep deficiency attention test. Researchers concluded that acute sleep deprivation causes mood swings and long-term chronic sleep deficiency affects concentration and performance at work.
So if you have been feeling like you have been dropping the ball while juggling multiple tasks at work, you need to ensure you get your fill of sleep and amp up your focus and concentration!
4. Sleep Deprivation Effects on Energy
A study conducted on a group of women-only participants concluded that the energy intake during sleep deprivation increased by about 20%, equivalent to 415 kcal. Additionally, another recent study found that sleep promotes the storage and conservation of energy. Sleep deficiency saps stored energy in the body during sleep deficit periods, thereby lowering your energy level during your working hours. This is bound to reflect in your productivity during a work day.
So if you want to achieve everything you plan for your day, you need all the energy you can muster. Sleeping for 7 hours is the very first step for a power-packed day at work!
5. Sleep Deprivation Effects on Mood
Sleep deprivation directly affects your mood. Studies have proved that both partial and complete sleep deficiency immediately impact your mood and cause irritability and stress. The increase in irritability may affect the way you talk and respond to others, thus creating a negative impression before your team and organization.
Sleep deficit affects you emotionally too, making you upset, angry, and mentally exhausted. It makes you emotionally vulnerable, and you may explode at the slightest cause at work, become less empathetic toward your coworkers, or become socially avoidant, jeopardizing your relationship with your colleagues and boss.
Sleep deprivation also affects your social skills at work. If you thought you were not nice to your team-mate for no real reason, think again, maybe you are right! It could have been simply the result of a sleep-deprived you, nothing more!
A published in-lab study in Nature Communications included 18 healthy adult volunteers. The study was performed with one night of complete sleep and one night of sleep deficit and the results were then compared. The result of this research indicated that sleep deprivation lead to social withdrawal and increased socially avoidant behavior.
If you find yourself lacking enthusiasm for more than one office party or client meeting, you must stop and think where the problem really lies. Lack of adequate shut-eye might be the culprit behind such reclusive behavior.
6. Sleep Deprivation and Anxiety
Sleep deficiency increases anxiety and can affect your ability to perform a new or challenging task at work as a high level executive or cope with trying situations with colleagues.
A paper published in Emotion studied the relationship between insufficient sleep and anxiety. The participants were allowed to sleep for a maximum of six and a half hours on the first night, two hours on the second night, and rest for seven to eight hours of sleep in the next two nights. The result of this research indicated that the participants suffered from greater anxiety in the sleep-deprived condition in comparison to the rest period. The study supports the previous reviews conducted and published on the effects of sleep deprivation.
If you have been experiencing anxiety before meetings, presentations, or before other tasks at work, you know that the sleep deprivation is beginning to show! Get your dose of shut eye to cut down on the unnecessary anxiety you have been experiencing.
7. Chronic Sleep Deprivation and Depression
Sleep deprivation can make you feel irritated and reduce your enthusiasm level, which, along with feeling sad and empty, are clinical signs of depression.
Research has proved that individuals with insomnia who get insufficient sleep are 10 times more likely to suffer from clinical depression. Increased insufficiency in the quality and duration of sleep leads to an increased risk of clinical depression.
Obstructive sleep apnea, in which the quality and quantity of sleep are impaired, is also associated with depression. A study with 19,000 participants indicated that the risk of depression is five times higher in individuals with obstructive sleep apnea.
Depression affects your performance and productivity at work. Feeling tired and sad all of the time make it difficult to meet deadlines and other obligations in the office.
8. Chronic Sleep Deprivation and Serious Health Problems
Prolonged sleep deficit affects your physical health, can weaken your immune system and make you prone to illnesses, leading to burgeoning absenteeism and hampered productivity. Serious health concerns like obesity and weakened immunity are often the gateway and a major risk factor for a host of other medical conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cancer and heart disease. Chronic diseases like these are difficult to reverse and nearly impossible to cure. Prevention remains the method of choice to live without them.
In addition, scientists from UC Berkeley’s Sleep and Neuroimaging lab have discovered that sleep deprivation increases the concentration and accumulation of certain proteins in the brain. These proteins are responsible for causing dementia. Sleep deprivation automatically increases the risk of dementia.
Recent research also indicates that just one sleepless night can cause an immediate increase in the concentration of the beta-amyloid protein in the brain, which is responsible for a neurodegenerative disorder called Alzheimer’s disease, the most prevalent form of dementia. Imagine what persistent sleep deprivation can do to your mind! The very memories you are striving so hard to form, might turn to wisps of smoke.
So if you are not sleeping enough, even though you might be eating well, exercising regularly, you are doing injustice to your body and mind.
As we can see, effects of sleep deprivation are not just skin deep- they go beyond the groggy eyes and a slow day at work. Persistent sleep deprivation affects the body and the mind leading to fairly serious adverse effects. It hampers your memory, focus, concentration, decision-making and rational thinking, energy levels as well as your general temperament and mood at work. It is the threshold to a wide spectrum of health concerns like dementia, heart disease, diabetes, anxiety and depression, to name a few.
Your sleep deficit can become easily visible to your colleagues, superiors, and clients through the after‑effects of chronic sleep deprivation. Although you are sacrificing sleep for work, your inability to shoulder responsibilities with complete concentration and focus may lead to errors, creating an unfavorable impression at the workplace- the very thing you strive so hard to prevent.
Being well rested you are sure to be able to achieve more in a shorter day than you will achieve despite longer hours with a sleep deprived blunt mind and exhausted body. A few hours of shut eye do more for the mind, body and career than we realize.
Sleeping well is like pressing the reset button on the body and mind; giving them time to absorb everything that happened through the day, and repair.
Get more information about sleep deprivation and a normal sleep cycle.
Or you can watch this interesting video:
Feeling burned out? Here’s how to diagnose it.
If you have any questions about sleep deprivation, its effects on your performance, and how to address this issue, please leave a comment for us and we will be happy to help!