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How a bad night's sleep can ruin your working day

28-01-2016

How a bad night's sleep can ruin your working day

We've all hit that mid-afternoon drag at work. The clock seems to taunt us as we try and down some coffee and plug through the day – it feels like having a bubble of tiredness around your head. You crave some junk food or coffee, have some volatile bouts of crankiness and might even pass out at your desk – in short, you're just not running on all cylinders.

While this is a normal occurrence for millions of people worldwide, the majority of them never relate it to serious sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation: too little or too much sleep, can have some detrimental effects on numerous aspects of daily life: work, parenting, hobbies, and school. In the workplace, this makes individuals vary in how much sleep they need regularly. The National Sleep Foundation generally lists these hours for adults at between seven to nine.

 

If you're a working individual, sleep deprivation can affect more than just your job performance. The lethargic pace that comes with that drag can put you behind and slows you significantly. What's worse is that the intensity of the symptoms increases over time, which spells bad news for you and your job.

If you have to think creatively or come up with innovative ideas on the spot, then you need the full night of sleep on your side as well. Any flexibility, creativity and adaptability will see significant damage. Your reaction time, ability to take in new information and make decisions can all suffer. A 1999 study in Loughbrough University's Sleep Research Lab found that 24 hours of sleep deprivation causes a drop in performance. 32-36 hours of sleep deprivation will inhibit your ability to learn and take in new information – not a spectacular way to try and ace that job performance review.

Continuing on that hypothetical performance review, sleep deprivation will do you no favours when it comes to maintaining a positive and enthusiastic mood. Lack of sleep has been associated with mood changes. Unless you work in a stress-free environment, you are likely to get agitated. Being cranky and full of cravings for high energy foods rarely ends up being good for you. Sleep deprivation causes a lowered level of glucose in the brain and affects the parietal lobe and prefrontal cortex which, you may have guessed it, are vital when it comes to work – they assist in decision making, social interaction and numerous other facets required to perform well.

In fact, enough sleep deprivation can even have people falling asleep at work. The body is trying desperately to compensate for what it is not getting every way it can, and that does include enforcing sleep even when it is inconvenient for you and your job. This chart gives you a general idea of the symptoms here.

It might not be in the news often as a case of disasters or even grave significance, but sleep deprivation is no joke. Investigations into the meltdown at Cherynobl, the Exxon Valdez oil tanker and even the Challenger explosion all had sleep deprived workers as a factor. It's one thing to fall asleep at a desk, but to be sleep deprived when handling dangerous tasks or material is clearly not quite the same. It becomes a matter of personal and public safety, even if you are just used to working in an office, there is still the matter of driving to and from work. It might seem obvious to simply avoid doing hazardous tasks when sleep deprived, however, that is not always as easy as it sounds.

A 2004 study led by Dr. Charles Czeisler of the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School actually found that the number of medical errors that were the result of sleep deprivation were at least 36% - seeing  your doctor or surgeon yawn is a lot scarier than you might think. Studies have also shown that it has intensely increased the error rate in intensive care and ER care, and results in poor quality intubations, compromises language and math skills and can make any medical profession that much more dangerous in the long run. On the rise of the technological summit, wWith sleep deprivation becoming more of an industry standard due to increased demand and hours in working class society, especially amongst medical professionals, sleep deprivation issues and errors have more than tripled since the early 90’s'.

It is not just a matter for major medical practices, but the aviation industry has also seen a detrimental increase in error, lack of judgment and poor coordination in recent years. The businesses most likely to be affected seem to be the ones with the most sporadic hours and demands on the individual. Stress is a major contributing factor both to mental health issues, physical issues and sleep deprivation, which, in turn, causes problems with the three listed facets of the human health system; in turn, . wWhat you end up with is a cycle in which getting a good nights' rest seems impossible or even impractical. Adjusting to time zones, loading times and long flight times have been shown to severely rattle the minds of pilots and crew alike.

Whether it is in the sky, the air, the sea or underground, workers everywhere are getting more and more ill as the hours of sleep we need are yanked away. Any workplace can state in their safety video that getting a  good night’s rest is in the best interest of the employee, but the hypocrisy of many corporations and industries is their growing demand on workers. Reduced funding means more work and less workers being hired on to do it. Throwing in any part of an environment out of sync is going to see drastic after effects, whether it be in nature or in the office.

No matter your job, sleep deprivation has no benefits. You might be able to marathon that show on Netflix, you might be able to catch a late night movie or go out bar-hopping if you stay up late, but the peer pressure to engage in the night life is another side effect of trying to make up for time being sapped in the work day. You might not be able to get a reasonable schedule from your boss, but you can take steps to be more in control of your sleep schedule. Whether it is giving yourself a more sleep-friendly bedroom, adjusting your eating habits or simple getting some discipline in going to bed on time, what you do for your sleep schedule is going to benefit your overall health and the many facets of your life where your livelihood is waiting.

Sleep deprivation affects so many people around the world is a problem, without doubt. Poor judgment, slowed response time, mood changes and falling asleep on the job are serious issues, no matter the position. Measuring the actual statistics has proven difficult as well. The variables of an individuals' sensitivity to sleep deprivation all vary and so do the damage inflicted per individual.

Other symptoms of sleep deprivation are also noted as contributing to depression, obesity, diabetes and a weaker immune system. Cell and body restoration does largely take place during sleep, so sleep deprivation can cause damage on all three fronts: mentally, physically and emotionally. It is certainly doing you no favors, as stated before – much like a dentist will advise you to floss regularly, it cannot be advised enough that you get sleep regularly.

Being surrounded by technology and lights is a big contributing factor. Our internal clock, called the circadian rhythm, is linked to our eyes. Light breaking through can confuse our internal clock as well as block melatonin, the happy little chemical in our brain that is largely in charge of sleep. One of the most popular tips is to go out and camp for a period of time to have your internal clock reset and get your sleeping routine back on track.

When it comes to mental health, sleep deprivation is another big factor. Depression especially can keep people up in night, despite biology insisting otherwise, and that results in a vicious cycle where you just can't win.

Needless to say, sleep deprivation is a serious problem in more than just the workplace. The measurements and statistics might be difficult to garner entirely, but what is known is a clear indicator that there is a large amount of people who are having their work performance damaged by not getting enough sleep or sleeping irregularly. It is not just the work performance, either. Sleep deprivation is now being considered a factor making our bodies ill and affecting so much in our work, personal and daily lives that more people are taking notice. If you haven't taken notice yet either, it might very well be time to reassess your sleeping routine and work performance when you go in without a proper amount of sleep. There are plenty of tools and tips out there for fixing your sleeping schedule, so don't be discouraged, Give yourself the rest you need – your body, brain (and boss) will thank you.

Further Reading
If you enjoyed this article you will find the below of interest:
Is drowsy driving the new drink driving?
How to get the perfect night's sleep?
How does stress affect how you sleep and work?

Or why not download our Sleep Tips SlideShare Guide and get the best sleep of your life.


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