Most of us wish we could get more done in a day. Sometimes we sacrifice sleep to cram more during our waking hours, except we often do so at our peril.
We know sleep is essential and sleep deprivation wreaks havoc on our bodies, making it harder to concentrate, control our impulses or retain information.
Better sleep translates to better productivity and a healthier well-being. Not only does lack of sleep cost us our health, it’s costing the United States about $411 billion in lost productivity, according to one study.
Sleep impacts every aspect of our life yet it’s often overlooked when it comes to the workplace. A survey of 1,000 Americans across a variety of industries on their sleep and work satisfaction conducted by The Sleep Judge, a company that provides mattress and sleep product reviews, showed nearly four in five employees satisfied with sleep weren’t looking for another job. However, employees dissatisfied with sleep were 50 percent more likely to be looking.
According to the productivity study, researchers found that a person who sleeps on average less than six hours a night has a 13 percent higher mortality risk than someone sleeping between seven and nine hours. Performance issues due to lack of enough quality sleep have become such a concern that some companies are trying to mind the nap gap by doing everything from introducing sleep pods in the office where employees can nap, to halting email after a certain time.
Some industries cannot apply these kinds of ideas. Those who work in retail or transportation, for example, usually cannot go sleep in a pod or need to worry about email after hours and yet they’re the ones who suffer from the highest levels of sleep deprivation, according to The Sleep Judge survey.
While companies might not be able to be able to afford to give everyone a raise, the evidence shows helping employees get good sleep can positively impact culture and retention, according to The Sleep Judge survey results.
“We do want to emphasize that ultimately it is the responsibility of the individual to make sure they are getting the sleep they need,” Tyler Burchett, who is working on behalf of the creative team for The Sleep Judge, shared with me via email.
“That said, there are definitely things employers can do to help workers, and not sending texts/emails after hours is a great start. Another common thing that many companies are doing is making later start times. There’s a lot of benefits for starting at 10:00 A.M. rather than 9:00 A.M., from more time to sleep in the morning to avoiding rush hour.”
Employees can also take matters into their own hands. Here are three ways to help yourself be more productive while getting the sleep you need:
1. Figure out your chronotype.
Your sleep chronotype is recognizing when your body most likely wants to sleep and taking advantage of letting it rest when it needs to so you can wake up refreshed. Knowing that detail will help you determine when you’re most productive. If you’re more productive in the early hours, perhaps you can seek out jobs that allow you to go in early so you can wrap up earlier, too.
2. Go to bed at the same time every night.
Even on evenings where you don’t have to work the next morning. Research shows that sleep debt is hard to make up and sleep deprivation not only hurts our productivity, but it’s also harmful to our health.
3. Ask your employer if they’re willing to work with you.
Another common option for employers, according to Burchett, is to transition their workforce to include more remote employees. “When employees don’t have to contend with a morning commute, it can add a lot more time for sleep,” he said. Another idea is to allow employees to start an hour later so they can avoid rush hour traffi
Burchett admitted that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Still, taking the time to consider how sleep affects our minds and bodies, whether it’s us taking charge or employers taking innovative steps to make life better for their workers, is time well-spent.