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How lack of sleep may be affecting your work

Renee Sylvestre-Williams|

How many of us have set guidelines about email, work and sleep? Think about when you got your first blackberry. You probably found yourself answering emails at ridiculous hours of the day, including Sundays. You may have felt you would be slacking off. Instead, you may have gotten annoyed and stressed because you found yourself waking up at all hours of the night thanks to that little pinging sound. You’re not getting enough sleep and it’s affecting your work.

Lack of sleep can affect reaction times leading to work injuries, but a lack of sleep affects you in some more insidious ways as well.  Former President of the United States Bill Clinton once said he only got four to five hours of sleep. Madonna is another person who gets a few hours of sleep.

When it comes to work, we live in a society that values the lack of sleep. We’re attached to our smartphones and computers. We send and answer emails from work at all hours of the day, late into the evening and early in the morning.

While there is no magic number when it comes to hours of sleep, there are a few effects of a lack of enough sleep. Doctor Robert Oexman the director of the Sleep to Live Institute says, “For anyone who gets six hours of sleep or less, they have the same cognitive thinking skills as someone that stayed awake for 48 hours.”

Decision making

Scientists who study sleep deprivation found that there was a reduced capacity of attention and concentration. Someone who is sleep deprived finds it difficult to concentrate and hard to make decisions. This is because it’s more difficult to assess the entire situation (the lack of concentration and attention) and chose the right decision. Remember Bill Clinton? After the end of his presidency even he admitted that his lack of sleep led to some poor decision-making, extramarital behaviour aside.

Emotional Control

Look at a child who hasn’t gotten enough sleep. If they skip their nap, they soon become irritable and weepy. While adults don’t become weepy and can’t really go for an afternoon nap, a lack of sleep does affect the mood. If you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re in a bad mood and that affects your work and your coworkers.  If your boss is grumpy, it could be that he’s not getting enough sleep.

Doctor Oexman says, “If employees tell you their boss is hard to get along with and explosive, it could be that he’s sleep-deprived.”

Difficulty Learning

You need enough sleep to process new skills. If you don’t get enough sleep, your cognitive processes are affected. You can’t learn (that lack of attention), concentrate or remember what you’ve learned that day. The mind also takes the sleep period to settle the memories. If your sleep is disrupted or insufficient, those memories won’t stick.

“They don’t understand the consequences of not getting enough sleep,” says Doctor Oexman. “Unfortunately they think if they work more hours they will be able to get ahead of people who chose to work less and sleep more.  We now know that this is not true.  People who choose to sleep will perform better athletically, socially, and in business.”


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