Sleep deprivation – if you don’t get enough quality sleep – could be sabotaging your career. If your work requires concentration and brain and/or physical work, lack of sleep can have a negative impact on your performance and decrease your productivity.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine strongly recommends that adults should be able to sleep at least 7 hours every night regularly for optimal health. Sleeping less than the recommended number of hours is associated not only with adverse health outcomes such as hypertension and diabetes but with increased errors, a higher risk of accidents and impaired performance as well.
But how exactly does lack of good quality sleep affect poor workplace performance?
It makes you lose focus and decreases your capacity for creative thought.
In a research done at Hult International Business School, study participants who were not able to get enough sleep reported how they struggled to stay focused in meetings and took longer to complete their tasks. They also found it challenging to come up with new ideas, become motivated to learn new skills and manage work demands.
If you didn’t get enough sleep the night before, you may find it hard to concentrate on what you’re supposed to be working on. You may be reading the same paragraph over and over without absorbing anything, putting data in the wrong spreadsheet, forgetting to schedule an important meeting and so on.
Your cognitive abilities can also be affected, particularly your reaction time, judgment and perception. This results in poor decision-making. Some of the worst disasters in the world such as the the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986 and the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 have been attributed to human error caused by sleepiness.
It can make you more vulnerable to common illnesses.
Studies have shown how lack of quality sleep can have a negative impact on physical health. Of note is a weakened immune system, which makes you more vulnerable to infections and common illnesses that can make you call in sick.
One study found that individuals who averaged less than 7 hours of shut-eye were three times more likely to develop a cold. If you’re away from your job often because of an illness, you won’t be able to get much work done. In some organizations, sick days can be a deciding factor in employee retention. Illness can be detrimental to one’s work security and career.
Plus, if you don’t get enough quality sleep, it would take a longer time for your body to heal from a sickness or injury. This means more days off work and less time being productive.
According to research from the Harvard Medical School, lost productivity as a result of lack of sleep costs organizations an average of $2,280 annually for each sleep-deprived employee. This is equivalent to 11.3 days of lost work performance. If these estimates are applied to the total workforce of the United States, that’s a staggering $63.2 billion every year.
It can make you a bad team player.
Aside from cognitive and physical effects, lack of quality sleep also has an emotional, behavioral and psychological impact. Sleep-deprived people may feel more irritable and moody and experience high levels of anxiety and stress.
In a work environment where communication, a positive can-do attitude, and teamwork play a big role in the success of a project, having these negative emotions can make you that person that nobody wants to work with. This can slow down progress at work and cause project delays. You can also expect some negative peer feedback in your employee performance review, which management will surely take note of.
What all this shows is that to be able to do your best at work, you need to take steps to get enough sleep. You also need to make sure that the shut-eye you’re getting is actually good quality sleep where you wake up feeling refreshed and energized.
Remember: You may be highly competent at what you do, but if you don’t prepare your mind, body, and mood to take on the day’s tasks, then you’re doing yourself, the people you work with and your organization a great disservice. So if you value the quality of your work and take pride in being productive, don’t take sleep for granted!