Good sleep is key to employee performance in the workplace, and employee performance is key to a company's success. A recent study found that 35% of Americans are not getting enough sleep. So, chances are, about one third of your employees aren't getting enough sleep either, which may have a significant impact on their performance.
If you want to improve this situation, you must first understand how an employee's sleep and their performance are really connected.
So, How Does Sleep Deprivation Affect Work Performance?
An adequate amount of sleep is essential for our bodies to function properly, so obviously a lack of sleep won’t do us any good. But what we may not understand is that only a one hour shortage per night may produce negative consequences if it occurs on a regular basis.
So, not only do people who pull frequent all-nighters suffer from sleep deprivation; anyone who gets less than 7 hours of sleep every night may be suffering as well.
Now, here are the possible effects of sleep deprivation:
1. Difficulties with paying attention and focusing
A lack of sleep doesn’t allow our bodies to properly metabolize glucose and turn it into energy deposits. Since the brain needs a lot of glucose to function, it will surely suffer, which will result in an inability to stay concentrated and pay attention during work.
2. Cognitive decline
The starved brain may also decrease employees' creativity during brainstorming sessions and cause an overall decrease in their ability to think strategically and make good decisions.
3. Memory impairment
Memory consolidation happens during sleep, so sleep shortage may lead to gaps and blind spots in memories. This is certainly not good when it comes to employees retaining important work-related information.
4. Poor emotional regulation
When the brain isn’t well-rested, it won’t be able to regulate emotions properly, which can cause people to become more impulsive and angry. This can lead to workplace disagreements, contribute to unhealthy relationships, and create an overall negative atmosphere.
5. physical health issues
Furthermore, a lack of sleep causes significant stress on a person's body, so it may take a toll on one’s physical health as well. For example, elevated levels of cortisol — the primary stress marker — can trigger numerous fluctuations in the endocrine system and weaken the immune system, thereby making a person more prone to catching a cold or other infections.
The longer one goes without sleep, the more pronounced these effects become. They might even trigger mental health issues if an individual is especially prone to them. Check this article if you’re wondering how long one can go without sleep and whether sleep deprivation causes any irreversible damage.
Groggy Employees Aren’t the Only Problem
As a lack of sleep builds up, your employees might develop serious conditions:
● Mood disorders —such as depression—may result in a lack of motivation to perform basic job duties, causing an employee to leave their position.
● Metabolic syndromes—such as obesity, thyroid issues, or diabetes —may increase the number of sick leaves and total healthcare spending for the company.
Now, sleep deprivation followed by high stress levels may result in chronic insomnia. And there’s evidence that chronic insomnia — and metabolic responses to it, such as hyperglycemia and elevated cholesterol levels — can make an individual more prone to emotional burnout.
This could lead to employee turnover, which might result in the company being seen as unreliable in terms of motivating its employees. Additionally, according to Eva Coven, a sleep expert from Kansas-sleep, sleep deprivation can become dangerous, as it increases the risk of accidents in your workplace. This particularly applies to facilities where employees manually operate machinery and their precise attention is vital not only for their performance, but also for everyone's safety.
What Can Managers and Companies Do?
With all this being said, the sleeping habits of your employees should be a concern for top management. But can you really affect how people sleep and even help them sleep better? Yes, you can!
Here are some recommendations for companies on how to deal with sleep deprivation and help their employees establish better sleeping patterns:
1. Spread awareness
Weekly or monthly events promoting a healthy sleep schedule could be a good thing to implement in the workplace. The goal here is to let employees know that proper sleep may help them save a lot of money on their health in the long term. Plus, it will make them more productive, which might lead to promotions and an increased income.
2. Implement a flexible work schedule
Circadian rhythms — the natural processes in our body that regulate our sleep-wake cycle — vary from individual to individual. So, the best way to make the most of your employees’ productivity fluctuations is to offer flexible working hours so that they can arrive well-rested and work at their own pace. Of course, not all companies can operate that way, but if it’s possible for your company — you may want to think seriously about this.
3. Organize nap rooms
Again, this is not a solution for every company, but if you feel like you can organize the space for workers to take a nap in the middle of the day — go ahead. It may be really worth it. Napping rooms are common in Japanese corporations — no wonder Japan has the world's third-largest economy!
By following these recommendations, employees' sleeping habits may improve greatly, which will improve productivity in the workplace and boost employee morale.
About the Author: John Breese is the CEO of Happysleepyhead, a web resource where he and his team of sleep experts share their knowledge and review various sleep products. You can find more science-backed tips to get better sleep at Happysleepyhead.