Do you find yourself struggling to sleep?
If this is a regular occurrence for you, you’ve probably tried various things that you hope will help … from practicing good “sleep hygiene” to choosing the best mattress.
You might be wondering, though, whether a lack of sleep is really an issue. Does it matter if you only get a few hours’ sleep?
The truth is that insomnia really does affect your productivity – in quite serious ways. Here’s what one study found:
Results suggest that insomnia is both very common in the US workforce and that insomnia is associated with substantial lost work performance even after controlling for a wide range of comorbid conditions.
So what happens when you’ve had a few bad nights’ sleep?
#1: You’re Less Motivated
It’s hard to have much drive and enthusiasm when you’re feeling exhausted. When you’re sleeping well, you wake up ready to face the day: when you’re struggling with insomnia (even sporadically), it can really sap your motivation and energy levels.
#2: You Have Difficulty Focusing
Assuming you make it to your desk, the battle isn’t won yet. Insomnia makes it hard to focus: you’ll find your attention wandering frequently. It also takes you longer to register and react to things that suddenly happen: an issue in many jobs, but potentially very dangerous in certain roles (like if you’re a long-haul driver).
#3: You Struggle to Make Good Decisions
Making the right decision can be hard at the best of times – but if you’re not sleeping well, it can be very tough to weigh up tricky decisions correctly.
When you’re tired, you’ll be more likely to see the positives of a decision rather than the negatives, which could lead to you taking unnecessary risks. You’re also likely to focus on short-term gains at the expense of the longer-term.
#4: You Won’t Remember Things
During deep REM sleep, our brains move memories from short-term to long-term memory – but if you’re not getting enough sleep, this can’t happen so effectively. If you’re studying for an exam, for instance, this can have a seriously detrimental effect.
None of these are good for your work performance. And they also only scratch the surface of the effects of sleep deprivation: there are physical and mental health issues associated with insomnia, too.
If you’re tempted to push yourself to stay awake, remember that an extra hour’s sleep is likely to pay for itself in productivity gains – you’ll feel clear-headed and focused during the day.
Simple Ways to Improve Insomnia
If you’re trying to get enough sleep but can’t drop off (or fall asleep but then wake up for long hours during the night), some simple things you can try, suggested by the National Sleep Foundation, are to:
- Avoid naps during the day – particularly during the afternoon.
- Do regular exercise – but not too near bedtime (as it can wake you up too much).
- Avoid smoking, drinking alcohol, or eating spicy/heavy meals in the evening. These can disrupt sleep.
- Avoid using your phone, tablet, or computer in the hour before bed. The blue light they emit is stimulating to your brain and stops you winding down for sleep.
If you’ve tried lots of things but nothing seems to be working for you, then see your doctor. Don’t simply put up with insomnia – the effect on your productivity, and on the rest of your life, can be serious.