“We live in a 24/7 world. There are plenty of people willing to work evenings and weekends. If you can’t cut it, there are others who can!”
So thinks the boss who sends emails at 10:00 p.m. asking employees to have something ready for tomorrow morning’s meeting, or the “rock star” staffer who texts you at 5:00 a.m.
While some workers brag about how little sleep they get as they pursue 60+ hour workweeks, more and more business pundits (think Arianna Huffington and “Thrive”) are now trumpeting what the medical community (and savvy bosses) have known for decades: lack of sleep not only leads to mental and physical health problems, but also reduces employee productivity and efficiency.
Consider how you’d react to someone you rely on not getting enough sleep:
•If you were scheduled for surgery tomorrow morning at 7:00 a.m., would you want the doctor operating on you to have only three hours of sleep?
•If you were being sued, would you want your attorney to start working on your court filings at 9:00 p.m., after he got to the office at 6:00 a.m.?
•If you hired a consultant to do important project work for your agency or department, would you want her preparing your presentation in the wee hours of the morning?
Probably not, because you know people aren’t at their best when they’re sleep deprived.
More Hours = Less Productivity?
Quantity doesn’t trump quality when it comes to work hours. A lack of sleep can produce reduce memory function and cognitive abilities and increase irritability, stress, depression and weight gain. Not only does a lack of sleep reduce your body’s ability to repair itself and decrease your ability to function during the day, it also permanently kills brain cells you can’t regenerate.
Sleep is the time your body repairs itself. Your body is made up of trillions (with a “t”) of cells, and when your body sleeps, it slows your metabolism, lowers your core temperature and blood pressure, regulates brain hormones differently and repairs your cells.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends eight hours of sleep each night, although each person’s individual needs might vary slightly. If you laugh at the thought of getting that much sleep each night, consider exactly who’s benefitting from the brain damage you’re doing to yourself and what they think of you. In addition setting yourself up for formal grievance complaints from your employees who you ask to work evening and weekend hours on regular basis, you can lose the respect of your peers who come to see you as someone who has the time to work nonstop because you have no life and few friends.
Many cultures embrace the afternoon siesta, which go-go Americans might see as laziness, but which other societies have used for hundreds of years to help people re-energize mentally and physically. Some top business performers embrace the “power nap” to help increase productivity during long days. While napping can help you temporarily maintain your mental edge to finish a project, trying to repay sleep deficits with naps on a regular basis doesn’t undo the long-term damage regularly skipping a full night’s sleep does.
To reduce the need to work excessive hours that deprive you and your staff of necessary sleep, teach your employees better time-management skills. If you have a department or agency newsletter, provide regular sleep tips. Set boundaries on after-hour IMs, texts and emails.
How to Sleep Better: 7 Important Tips
•Keep your room temperature between 68 and 72 degrees. Your core temperature drops when you sleep. When you sleep on a plane, keep your shoes on (your feet and hands are actually warmer than the rest of your body during sleep) and don’t get under that flight blanket.
•Regulate your light source. Darkness signals your brain to start releasing melatonin to help you sleep (ever notice your audience pass out after your turn out the room lights to give a PowerPoint presentation?). Waking up in a room with some light lets you reduce melatonin production and wake up more refreshed. Keep your curtains open or buy a sleep lamp.
•Take a break before you sleep. Don’t shut off the computer and hop into bed. Your mind will still be racing. Avoid winding down the day with nerve-wracking TV, as well.
•Hydrate, especially when traveling. At home, consider a humidifier.
•Don’t eat close to bedtime. Have your last caloric intake less than three hours before you sleep and eat easily digestible complex carbs.
•Don’t exercise less than three hours before you hit the sack. Exercise raises your metabolism and core temperature. If you time it right, exercise can help you sleep better because your core temperature is dropping, starting the process before you get into bed.
•Avoid caffeine and alcohol after work.
How about you? Do you get eight hours of sleep a night? Does your employer make rest, health and sleep a priority at your workplace – or not? Sound off in the comments below.
Forbes: Lack Of Sleep Kills Brain Cells, New Study Shows