Productivity and GTD
Here's How Sleep Deprivation Affects Your Productivity
“Tired minds don’t plan well. Sleep first, plan later.” ~ Walter Reisch
I bet you know this situation.
You come back home late in the evening, tired. You’ve been on your feet since 5 A.M. In this very moment, you wish there was nobody at home. Alas, your wife meets you in the doorstep, upset that you’re at home so late, again. You wish you could retort, but you know you’d only add fuel to the fire. So, instead, you bite your tongue and apologize for working late. Next, while your wife disappears in the kitchen, you head to your home office and turn on your laptop. You check the time. It’s already 11 P.M. Still, you’ve emails to send, reports to write and documents to prepare for the next day. Sleep needs to wait. Eventually, you go to bed at 2 A.M. only to wake up three hours later and run to work, again.
“God, I’m exhausted!” you think.
While watching the sun slowly climbing the horizon, you desire a huge mug of coffee or at least two energy drinks. In reality, though, what you really need is a good night’s sleep.
Why Is Sleep So Important?
The first thing you do when you can’t achieve as much as you planned in a day is to cut on sleep. Thus, you receive a few extra hours to focus on work. Here’s the paradox: sleeping less is precisely what leads you to poor work performance and decreased productivity during the day. So, by sleeping less you don’t help yourself at all.
Have you ever wondered why do our bodies require sleep? Why can’t we just go a week without it? Sleep wastes so much of our time! In fact, ⅓ of it!
Whereas it’s true that sleep takes a lot of time, it’s not a time wasted. When you drift off to sleep, your body performs several vital functions:
- The brain reorganizes as well as recharges itself,
- It gets rid of toxic waste byproducts that have built up throughout the day,
- Neurons within cerebral cortex regenerate,
- Your body rests, restores its energy and heals itself.
Right. But, how is that connected to your productivity? Let’s take a look at what happens when you don’t sleep enough and how it affects your performance during a day.
Sleep Loss And Productivity
There are many effects of sleep deprivation. Some are more, others less serious and disturbing. However, when you don’t sleep much during a long period of time, those effects accumulate, thus, making your life unbearable.
#1 Learning and concentration problems.
The quality and quantity of sleep have a major impact on your ability to learn, concentrate as well as memorize new information. Thus, a sleep-deprived person will find it hard to focus, and in consequence, won’t be able to learn efficiently. Also, they are likely to make more mistakes and forget details. As a result, putting your mind to work can be a huge challenge.
#2 Stress level shoots up.
Everybody knows that stress can hinder falling asleep and sleeping through the night. Right. However, did you know that lack of sleep can also be a source of stress?
When you’re sleep-deprived, your body releases stress chemicals:
- CRH (corticotropin releasing hormone) – it’s the main driver of the stress hormone system and so, it prompts your body to produce…
- ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone), which tells your adrenal gland to release adrenaline and other stress hormones.
Research confirms, though, that a good night’s sleep can break this chain. When you drift off to sleep, your body doesn’t release stress chemicals. It releases hormones vital to heal your body, regulate growth as well as appetite, instead. Thus, when you wake up, you feel refreshed.
#3 Weight gain.
Surprised? It’s true! Sleep can help you lose weight. Many obese people try one miracle diet after another, hoping to lose a few pounds, when in fact, they should pay more attention to how much they sleep. Did you know that a 150 lb. person burns over 60 calories in an hour of sleep? That’s 500 calories in just one night, at least!
What does that mean for you? It means that if you don’t have enough sleep every day, you will start piling on the pounds. As a result, joint and back pain will follow. You might also start requiring frequent doctors’ visits or even, hospitalizations.
Lack of sleep has a major impact on your thinking as well as feeling abilities. People who don’t have enough of rest during the night are more likely to experience mood swings, become more pessimistic and feel worthless. Thus, their self-confidence as well as self-esteem decreases. That leads to increased anxiety level as well as depression.
Now, although there are many ways to fight depression, like the chemical way, it’s much better to prevent illnesses than to cure them. Having a good night’s sleep can be a perfect way to start.
#5 Creativity impairment.
Many artists claim that insomnia fuels their creativity. What does science say? Well, from a medical point of view, you can experience an increase in creativity when being sleep-deprived for a short period of time. However, a long-term sleep loss degrades mental agility, thus your creativity decreases.
That means, if you go without REM sleep for a few days, your ability to come up with novel ideas as well as solve problems will be impaired.
#6 Weakened immune system.
“If you don’t sleep well, you’ll get sick” – an old wives’ tale or the truth? Research confirms that it can be true. Lack of sleep can make you more prone to catching colds and going down with the flu. That also includes the H1N1 virus, commonly called Swine Flu. How is this possible?
Well, sleep deprivation suppresses the function of the immune system. Thus, you are not only more likely to get sick if you don’t sleep enough, but also not be able to fight illnesses once you get sick.
Let’s consider everything!
Can you be productive when you can’t focus and learn? Will obesity help you with your daily routine and duties? Will you perform well while being depressed and going down with one disease after another?
The answer is obvious: you can’t be productive while being sleep-deprived. A good night’s sleep is a key to a healthy body and mind. And, when your mind is sound and your body’s strong, you can achieve everything faster, easier and with less effort.
But, what if you have a more serious problem? What if you don’t choose to cut down the amount of sleep you get each night, but suffer from insomnia?
Insomnia: Can You Overcome It?
Sleeplessness is a common problem. Many people strive to overcome it. The good news is, insomnia is treatable. What can help you beat it is the adoption of good sleep habits:
- Go to sleep and get up at the same time each day,
- Go offline in the evening (instead of staring at screens, read a book),
- Don’t drink caffeine, alcohol or eat fatty meals late in a day,
- Exercise regularly,
- Make your bedroom dark, warm and quiet, and…
- Have sex right before bed.
As you can see, there are many ways that can help you overcome insomnia. So, make good use of them!
Sleep deprivation results in a number of problems, one of which is decreased productivity. Thus, if you want to boost your work performance, remember to sleep at least 8 hours a day. Don’t underestimate sleep time! Sleep helps you to rest and regenerate. As a result, after a good night’s sleep, you’re happy, strong and full of energy, ready to complete everyday duties and tasks.
I have two last words to say to you: