How a lack of sleep can hurt you on the job

How a lack of sleep could hurt you on the job

Written by Lauren Pelley
Posted on

It’s one thing to yawn during a tedious meeting. But if you find yourself nodding off in front of your boss — you might be sleep-deprived.

And you’re not alone. Nearly 70 per cent of Canadians wish they could get better quality sleep most nights, according to national poll results published in the 2016 Canadian Sleep Review.

On top of that, a whopping 49 per cent say a lack of sleep affects their productivity at work.

That’s half the country’s workforce – yikes! – and sleep experts agree that not catching enough Z’s can make a pretty big dent in your job performance.

How a lack of sleep hurts your job performance

Not getting enough shut-eye can lead to a host of problems, like a lack of alertness, irritability, and an inability to concentrate or control your emotions – which could make writing reports or navigating office politics a challenge.

“The brain functions most affected are those responsible for making decisions and planning,” says neurologist Dr. Thanh Dang-Vu, Concordia University’s research chair in sleep, neuroimaging and cognitive health, exercise science.

In other words: Without enough sleep, you can expect to mess up everything from crunching numbers in a spreadsheet to figuring out timelines for a project.

And, sometimes, people even have physical symptoms like headaches, Dang-Vu says. In the long term, he adds an ongoing lack of sleep can lead you to get sick more often, and increases your risk of diabetes and obesity.

How to tell if you’re sleep-deprived

So how do you know if you’re lacking sleep? Sleep consultant and Good Night Sleep Site founder Alanna McGinn says you should ask yourself a few key questions:

  • Are you waking up tired, even though you feel like you’ve had a full night of sleep?
  • Are you drowsy throughout the work day?
  • Are you actually dozing off at your desk, or during your commute?

If you answer ‘yes,’ to those, that’s a red flag. “I’ve had individuals literally falling asleep, in the middle of the day, in the middle of a meeting,” McGinn says.

But don’t go thinking there’s a magic number of hours you should be getting each night.

“It really depends on how much sleep you need to feel refreshed,” says Dang-Vu. “For some people, six hours might be enough. For others, they might need nine.”

Aim to get more shut-eye

To get solid sleep on a regular basis, McGinn says it’s important to turn off all screens at least 15 minutes before you head to sleep, and keep a consistent bedtime.

That means going to bed at roughly the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning – even on weekends and holidays – at least 80 per cent of the time.

“That’s going to help sync your 24-hour clock, and help your body sleep easier,” McGinn says.

And if nothing seems to work, or if your partner notices you snoring heavily or having other nighttime problems, Dang-Vu says it’s best to go to your doctor to make sure your lack of shut-eye isn’t tied to a serious condition like sleep apnea or insomnia.

 

See also:

How to sleep better at night [infographic]

How much sleep do you actually need?

How to use your boredom as a launch pad to a better career

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