How Sleep Deprivation Affects You At Work
A third of the American workforce isn’t getting enough sleep, and it’s affecting the bottom line. A new report shows that 40 million adults report getting less than six hours of sleep a night, which has led to the CDC diagnosing a “sleep epidemic” for the country. It’s not just a matter of tired employees having an extra cup of coffee in the morning, these sleep deprived workers are actively losing money and costing their companies billions in healthcare costs says sleep scientist, Dr. Michael Breus.
“Sleep problems cost many tens of billions of dollars each year to the U.S. economy,” he says.”These costs accrue in several ways: missed work days, reduced productivity, higher rates of accident and injury, and greater reliance on health-care services — more doctor and hospital visits, higher prescription and over-the-counter sleep and other medication use.”
So how do these symptoms manifest themselves at work? We took a deep dive into how a lack of sleep could be preventing you (and your team) from being a productive and functioning unit.
Sleep is When We Learn New Concepts
Short changing your sleep can prevent you from internalizing concepts that you’ve learned during the day. Being asleep is actually an active step in the learning process, when your brain takes the time at night to sort out facts that have been learned during the day and moving them into long-term memory banks. When you don’t have the time to do that, it often can affect how well this information sticks with you, which is why your brain often can feel fuzzy after a sleepless night.
“Sleep offers our brains the chance to actually do something with material that we obtain during the day — while we rest, our minds synthesize everything so that the memories are more useful and accessible to us in the future,” says sleep expert Kelsey Down. “Without that valuable process, we lose our ability to retain information over a longer period of time.”
Sleep Deprivation Linked with Reckless Decision Making
Loss of sleep has also been linked to a number of neurological disorders, but perhaps the most interesting is its effect on decision making. A recent study in the annals of neurology showed that a group that had consistently gotten less than the six hours of recommended sleep was more prone to adverse decision making than their well-slept counterparts. The two groups were given a small amount of money and asked whether they should gamble or keep their money, the sleep deprived group almost always made the decision to gamble — even when it became evident that a positive outcome was less than likely. They were also less able to identify their own risky behavior.
“We therefore do not notice that we are acting riskier when suffering from a lack of sleep,” said Christian Baumann, study co-author and professor of neurology.
On top of all this, sleep deprivation has also been tied to a decrease in empathy, a lack of emotional intelligence, and a higher propensity for angry outbursts — all actions that we can agree are bad for business. It’s so important to get the correct amount of sleep that many companies have begun offering nap rooms for their employees to catch up on shut eye. Perhaps with the oncoming sleep revolution, we can finally get back those billions that are being lost every year to our sleepless nights.
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