Iowa Sleep Blog

How sleep affects your job performance

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Sleep is one of the most important ways to take care of your body and your overall fitness. So why do so many people overlook a good night’s rest? Today’s work environment features an increase of globalized work that has made it harder for managers and employees to turn off work at night. The average business executive sleeps less than six hours each night. From downing caffeine to stay awake for a deadline or boarding a transatlantic flight, our jobs can require a lot from us without allowing much recovery time. The Harvard Business Review’s report, Sleep Deficit: The Performance Killer, outlined four sleep-related factors that affect job performance.

  1. Homeostatic Driver – The reason we feel tired at night is based on how many hours of consecutive sleep we received the night before. While we are awake during the day, we build up a stronger and stronger need for sleep. When this pressure in the brain is too much, the “sleep switch” is triggered. This is what is to blame when you feel yourself nodding off at your desk or in a meeting.
  2. Sleep Totals – If you are consistently getting less than seven to eight hours of sleep, your body will experience a sleep deficiency that makes it to harder to allow your brain to function during the day. Many executives tend to burn the candle from both ends – with early breakfast meetings and late night dinners that don’t allow for much restful sleep. This causes high levels of cognitive impairment that for an individual who sleeps only four hours a night for a week, can feel like being awake for 24 hours straight.
  3. Circadian Phase – This is directly connected to our body’s circadian rhythm that tells us when it’s night or day. Unlike other animals who take frequent naps throughout the day, our bodies are trained to stay awake for one long interval throughout the day. But in return, our body expects to have one long interval to sleep at night. When we don’t give our bodies that time to sleep, we start to confuse our internal system.
  4. Sleep Inertia – That groggy feeling you may experience 15 to 20 minutes after waking up is called your sleep inertia. This happens when you wake up before your body and brain were ready to be awakened. This dazed feeling can last up to four hours, making it difficult to make decisions and comprehend what you are being told.

In a list published in Forbes Magazine, firefighter, military personnel/general, airline pilot, police officer and actor were the five most stressful jobs in America. When we’re stressed, sleep can be hard to come by. But, there are a couple things you can do to make grabbing a couple more hours of shut-eye easier, especially when you are traveling. If you can, avoid scheduling meetings on the same day you arrive if you’re taking a red-eye or transatlantic flight. If you stay late at the office one night, don’t get behind the wheel if you feel groggy or tired, as more than 100,000 accidents each year in the U.S can be attributed to drowsy driving. Small lifestyle changes such as shutting off work after dinner or keeping your computer and phone out of the bedroom (or at least an arm’s length away from the bed) can also be helpful in getting more sleep.

If you’re consistently having troubles sleeping or don’t feel refreshed in the morning – even after what you believed to be a good night’s rest – contact the doctors at Iowa Sleep to help get you back on track.

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