How Sleep Deprivation Affects Your Productivity?

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We spend a lot of time focusing on how we can be more productive at work. Sadly, a lot of the conversation is based on incorrect notions about the relationship between productivity and time. Effectiveness isn’t always about having more time.  And if one thing underlines this the most, it is the impact sleep deprivation can have upon productivity.


How many of us have stayed up late at night cramming for a big presentation or an exam?  Probably far too many… actually, getting a good night’s sleep could ensure better results.

Our brain needs breaks in order to ensure we’re performing at our best; sleep helps us concentrate and, ultimately, be more productive.

Top Executives Speak Out about the Importance of Sleep

Adrianna Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post, has spoken repeatedly about the need for sleep – and how a lack of it can affect not only your productivity but your mental wellbeing.

Huffington was made aware of the need to nurture healthy sleep habits when she collapsed from exhaustion at work back in 2009.  She then launched a “sleep revolution” to raise awareness about the issue.

She isn’t the only executive to speak candidly about the effects of sleep deprivation on their professional productivity and success.  In 2011, Lloyds banking Group boss António Horta Osório had a similar wake-up call to Huffington’s.  Osório took time off before returning to work and, while emphasising sleep deprivation’s crippling effects, has since said, “the other side of the coin of sleep deprivation is that you can recover from it completely.”

Lack of Sleep Results in Poor Productivity

But it isn’t just top executives that suffer from reduced productivity as a result of poor sleep habits – it affects us all.  A wide-ranging sleep survey reported in the Harvard Business Review found that, “Performance and productivity, as measured by the Work Limitations Questionnaire, was significantly lower among workers with insomnia and other sleep trouble than they were among those who usually slept well.”

Sleep deprivation can also lead to long term health problems, high blood pressure and stress.

So just how much sleep do we need?  Well, experts say it can differ from person to person.  Speaking to Personnel Today, Dr Guy Meadows of London’s The Sleep School accepts, “While the average recommendation for a good night’s sleep is seven to eight hours, it can range anywhere from four to 12 hours per individual. Some people can function on very little sleep, while others need up to 10 hours to feel rested. If you wake feeling refreshed and ready to face the day, then you have probably had enough.”

Good Sleep Habits for a Better Future

By ensuring you make time to nurture good sleep habits, you can prevent problems around being tired or finding it difficult to concentrate at work and will improve your productivity and focus in the short term.  In the longer term, this will not only be a boost to your career, but it will help you to avoid the problems of “burnout” experienced by Huffington and Osório.

As Patrick Skerritt writes in HBR: “A restorative sleep schedule can help keep you healthy and productive, and save your company thousands of dollars a year.”