How Sleep Deprivation Affects Work Performance
Meetings, presentations, reports. Rush, ASAP, urgent. So many deadlines to beat but so little time. What is a person to do? They cut down on snooze time so they can get things done and meet their targets. Then in the morning, the feeling of grogginess sets in as they start the next day’s work.
If this is your story, then you might be part of the statistics from a poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation. The Foundation wanted to know how many people have experienced severe fatigue during work. It turns out; there are many Americans who experience this in the workplace due to inadequate sleep. As a result, productivity is greatly affected. The result causes industries to lose around $60 billion per year.  Sleep deprivation also vastly increases the health risks associated with sleep deprivation.
We live in a technologically advanced world. Ironically, a significant portion of the world’s population is always tired even though tasks can be done with the touch of a finger. In a 2008 poll initiated by the National Sleep Foundation, 29% of the respondents said they felt exhausted or even fell asleep at work in the previous month. Twelve percent noted they came to work late in the previous month because they were still very sleepy. More than a quarter of employees reported that they fall asleep in the workplace at least a few days each month. All of these scenarios greatly interferes with job productivity. This problem seems prevalent in workers who work shifts or longer work hours (beyond 50 hours a week). Also, those who have multiple jobs suffered more from sleep deprivation. 
The poll also demonstrated that people are not getting the number of sleep hours that they said they needed. Most respondents said they needed an average of 7 hours of sleep every night to perform well the next workday. However, the same people said they only get an average of 6 hours. 
It seems nowadays that the more advanced the world gets, the more there is to do. Inventions and innovations are made to make life easier. However, these things also add to the reasons why people can’t enjoy life. People are driven to achieve a more comfortable life. As a result, workloads and other responsibilities are increasing. All of this comes at the expense of a good night’s sleep.
Sleep and Productivity
Over the years, successful companies have begun to notice that there is a direct correlation between an employee’s quality and length of sleep and the level of productivity. The more sleep-deprived an employee is, the lower is his or her productivity due to fatigue. Some companies have initiated their own programs to help their employees address this situation.
Large organizations, such as Goldman Sachs, Johnson & Johnson, and Google are bringing in sleep experts. These businesses offer their employees different programs to help address various sleeping problems. In the process, large financial losses that are associated with missed production or increased insurance cost are mitigated.
One study conducted by Harvard tackled how sleep deprivation affects work performance. The study showed that inadequate sleep could lead to a loss of productivity equivalent to 11.3 days each year, which means a loss of $2,280. This might seem pretty trivial at first. However, when all factors are considered, the cost is quite substantial. For instance, in a small business with 10 employees, productivity loss could cost them around $23,000 for 113 days. Insomnia is one of the major sleeping problems among employees, leading to extreme cases of fatigue. Nationally, it accounts for more than $60 billion of corporate losses due to lost productivity.
Fatigue and the Body
Some people still believe that if you want to get more things done, you just need more time. So, people continue to try to do more on less sleep. But this is not the solution. In fact, it is just the opposite. Fatigue from lack of sleep is a significant roadblock to improved productivity and a better quality of life. Here are areas where it causes a problem.
- Cognition and Output
Cognitive performance refers to all the mental processes occurring in your brain when you gain new knowledge or process information. When you are tired, this brain process is adversely affected. You may notice that your learning seems sluggish or you have to ask people to repeat information. Short-term memory and lack of focus are the most common issues workers encounter when they don’t get enough sleep.
Ultimately, this can lead to low work performance and associated low-quality output. Time is wasted as projects take longer to complete. The result is that the company loses money. Corporate managers might interpret these poor work results as due to inadequate training or that the person is simply not fit for the job. But often, the reason is quite simply, lack of sleep.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night is best for the average healthy adult. Unfortunately, most are getting only around 6. 
Perhaps, the most obvious way as to how sleep deprivation affects work performance is demonstrated through workplace accidents. Most accidents and injuries in the workplace happen when workers do not get enough sleep. Around 13% of work-related injuries are said to be due to sleep deficit, including major sleep problems like sleep apnea.  In industries where extreme care and focus is necessary, such as in construction or where chemicals and other sensitive substances are handled, this percentage is already very high.
In 2005, a BP oil refinery exploded in Texas, where 15 workers died, and 170 others were injured. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) discovered two significant factors. One, there were many safety issues in the refinery itself. Two, some workers had worked a 12-hour shift for 30 consecutive days. OSHA states that workers with a 12-hour workday are 37% more likely to be involved in accidents or suffer from injuries in the workplace.
- Overall Health
When a person experiences chronic fatigue as a result of inadequate sleep, it’s not unusual before health issues start manifesting themselves. Habitual sleep loss can increase your risk of developing major health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and depression.
Because of the serious health consequences affecting a significant portion of our population, sleep deprivation is already considered a “public health problem” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States. But, don’t be deceived. Sleep deprivation is a problem also experienced throughout the world.
Sleep is the body’s natural way of recharging and healing itself. Quality sleep is essential for the major processes in the body to realign and be in sync. If this natural process is disturbed or hindered, the systems in your body can be short-circuited. You’ll definitely feel it taking its toll on your body the moment you open your eyes.
Addressing the Problem
Obviously, the most straightforward answer to addressing the problem regarding inadequate sleep is to get ample sleep. However, this is easier said than done. A number of factors might affect a person’s sleeping habits. Here are also some steps that you can take to improve your situation.
Here are 3 general techniques and tips that may be useful for anyone with sleeping problems.
- Improve Your Sleeping Conditions
Often, adequate sleep is not only about how many hours you slept, but how restful your sleep was. The environment you sleep in has a crucial role in the quality of your sleep every night.
In your bedroom, pay special attention to your bed. You may need a special kind of mattress if you have certain medical conditions – like back problems or lower extremity edema. For couples, another consideration is isolating your or your partner’s movement in bed so you don’t disturb each other.
Sleeping in a dark, cool room can also facilitate better sleep. More melatonin (the hormone that promotes sleep) is also produced when you turn the lights off and avoid watching TV in bed. If you must use electronics, turn them off an hour before bedtime.
- Develop Healthy Routines
Whatever you do during the day can directly affect your activities at night. Did you know spending time outdoors during the day can be beneficial for your regulating your sleep patterns at night? Sun exposure helps control melatonin production in your body. If going outside is not practicable during work hours, open your office window, and allow the sunlight to come in.
You should also keep away from caffeinated drinks like coffee and soda after around 2:00 p.m. since the effect can last until nighttime.
Ultimately, you need to set rules for yourself about doing work at home or in the hours before you go to bed. If possible, set a time when your body can start to relax and prepare for sleep.
- Allow Yourself to Regroup in the Morning
You may want to hit the ground running the moment you open your eyes. But, you should give yourself time to adjust to being awake. This way, you can slowly shake off the sleepy feeling from your body. Lie in bed for a few minutes, then get up and do quick stretching routines. Also, develop a habit of setting aside time when you can prepare yourself a healthy breakfast and enjoy the morning view.
Sleep deprivation is more than a nuisance. It can adversely affect your work performance, induce job losses, and most of all, be dangerous.