Article provided by Rachael Matthews
Britain is caught up in a sleep deprivation epidemic – and it could be damaging our productivity.
According to a 2018 book called The Business of Sleep, “Never before have significant percentages of working adults been so sleep deprived.”
Up to 16% of UK adults get fewer than six hours of rest per night, posing a risk to health and wellbeing – as well as the ability to get things done.
1. Your concentration improves
Concentration is the driving force behind productivity since the quality of your attention affects how much you achieve in each working hour. Not only does a lack of sleep impact our ability to concentrate, but it also reinforces stress hormones to compensate, which further impacts your mental performance.
This means sleep problems can quickly spiral, so it’s important to maintain a healthy sleeping pattern to stay functioning at your best. Get a full eight hours’ sleep to maximise your ability to focus.
2. Your working memory gets a boost
Concentration isn’t the only important aspect of a productive mindset – you also need a sharp mind and the ability to think clearly. This helps you to work well, and not just fast.
Regular sleep deprivation impacts the working memory or your ability to store and retain information in the short-term. This type of memory is essential for carrying out complex tasks like learning, reasoning and filtering information.
In other words, getting a good night’s sleep helps you to think smart. This can boost your ability to whizz through workplace challenges and think on your feet.
3. You can react more quickly
Losing two hours’ sleep per night means your reaction times get slower – driving while sleep deprived can be as dangerous as driving while drunk.
Your ability to react quickly isn’t just important for driving, though. Staying primed through the day helps you to leap into action, tackling the unexpected with ease. If emails and workplace events can quickly change the direction of your day, maintaining optimal reflexes can help you to stay on track.
4. You procrastinate less
Procrastination keeps you up at night – and this can become a vicious circle. Staying up late to finish that project means you’ll be less productive the next day due to your reduced cognitive function. The work still needs to be done – and all of a sudden, you’re in the habit of working late before every deadline.
Making sleep a priority means you can keep hold of your work-life balance and conclude projects well before they’re due.
5. Your creative problem-solving skills could enjoy a welcome lift
It’s easy to think your skills and attributes are permanent and unchangeable – but this is rarely the case. Our brains have a great deal of plasticity, meaning our intelligence, creativity and ability to problem solve can change over time.
During REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep your brain is very active consolidating knowledge, memories and priming us to be great problem solvers. This type of sleep happens in the later stages of the night, which is why losing an hour of rest each night can stifle your ability to grow and develop.
The memory replay that happens during this sleep stage produces more than just colourful dreams – it also encourages us to understand patterns by creating mental schemas. This means “sleeping on it” can help to boost your creative problem-solving skills during the day.
What’s more, getting sufficient sleep is associated with a lifted mood, so you can approach problems in the best possible spirits.
Some estimates say sleep deprivation is costing the UK economy £40 billion each year. For individuals, losing sleep could mean losing out on the next promotion or pay rise.
From improving your bedtime routine to regular exercise and supplements, there are many natural ways to fight insomnia and be your most productive self.