If it seems like everyone around you is highly overworked, technology-tethered, coffee-fueled, and sleep deprived, you might be right. According to the CDC, a third of Americans aren’t getting enough sleep. Sleep deprivation increases our risk for a multitude of metabolic disorders like obesity and heart disease, but it can also impede our abilities to concentrate and perform at work. We take a deeper look into sleep deprivation effects and how this simple yet costly behavior affects your productivity, and possibly your career.
Sleep Deprivation Causes
Lack of sleep can be attributed to a number of factors both behavioral and physical. Many people suffer from sleep apnea – a disorder characterized by periods of shallow breathing or breathing stopping all together while the person is asleep. Other physical conditions like acid reflux, snoring, and pain can also cause sleeplessness.
Some causes of sleep deprivation are more controllable, but for many these are deep-rooted habits that are hard to break. High levels of chronic stress and a hectic work schedule can make winding down at at the end a difficult process. Other factors like the side effects of medications, alcohol consumption, dietary choices, and consuming stimulants like coffee will also impair sleeping through the night.
Signs of Sleep Deprivation
There are numerous signs of sleep deprivation that all point to impaired cognitive ability. Sleep loss alters optimal functioning of your ability to pay attention, and disrupts your ability to focus on environmental sensory input. This leads to difficulty paying attention, confusion, and even causing you to be more accident prone while at work.
Sleep deprivation also disrupts the ability of brain cells to communicate with each other, leading to forgetfulness and an inability to learn new concepts. This is due to the the negative effects sleeplessness has on the prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain responsible for regulating complex cognitive behavior, decision making, emotional behavior and social behavior.
A sleep deprived worker is also more prone to mood swings, irritability, and depressed mood. The very condition of sleep deprivation has been linked to unethical behaviors and impaired decision making in the workplace.
Side effects of sleep deprivation
Not getting enough sleep impairs the body’s ability to maintain a healthy immune system. This might mean that you’ll take longer to recover from an illness, or that you are at an increased risk of being chronically ill. The result is the use of more sick days, missing meetings, and feeling awful while at work. Sleep deprivation can also lead to obesity due to food cravings and irregular hormone levels. You’ll also be at a higher risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, and even heart disease.
Sleeping is a habit just like eating healthfully and maintaining an active lifestyle. Although all of us at one time or another will miss a few hours of sleep, chronic sleep deprivation will set the stage for long term challenges and complications in every aspect of life, especially a professional career. We charge our phones at the end of the day to ensure that they have the energy to function for all the tasks we’ve required of them, and much the same way our bodies and minds need to rest if they are to perform. If sleeplessness has become the norm for you, learn to incorporate behavioral modifications to help you sleep through the night ( Link Blog 2), and ensure that you’ve created the best environment possible possible with the right kinds of bedding and the perfect pillow to help you stay asleep throughout the night.