Sleep is a naturally recurring state of mind characterized by altered consciousness, relatively inhibited sensory activity, inhibition of nearly all voluntary muscles, and reduced interactions with surroundings.
Sleep has two principal functions. First, sleep conserves our energy, so when we wake up, we’re ready for the day. Second, sleep restores. While we’re awake, neurotransmitters in the brain are expanded and are reduced, Sleep replenishes the supply of neurotransmitters.
Humans, like all animals, need sleep, along with food, water, and oxygen, to survive. For humans, sleep is a vital indicator of overall health and well-being.
We spend up to one-third of our lives asleep, and the overall state of our “sleep health” remains an essential question throughout our lifespan.
Many of us are guilty of assuming that sleep is overrated. But it’s not. Sleep is vital to our personal health and safety, and Sleep affects every aspect of our waking lives, and our working lives, from our attention span and decision making to our occupational safety, to our health-care utilization.
The shortage of attention to sleep in the workplace comes at profound costs—to organizations’ bottom lines, to employees’ productivity, health, commitment to their organizations, and morale. Inadequate sleep appears to affect the brain’s ability to consolidate both factual information and procedural memories about how to do various physical tasks.
Just one sleepless night can diminish performance as much as a blood-alcohol level of 0.10 percent. Like alcohol, sleep deprivation also affects judgment, making it harder to assess how impaired you are when you’re tired.
Many employees report difficulty concentrating at work or feeling that their productivity is not optimal. In fact reducing sleep by 1 to 2 hours can have a significant impact on cognitive performance, and the reduced performance associated with a lack of sleep can significantly outweigh the suggested benefits of “trying” to be more productive.
Despite the additional time you may have to get certain tasks done by sleeping less the increased stress, reduced focus and escalating potential for errors can cause you to take longer to complete certain tasks then if you received adequate rest, which would improve your performance and cognitive focus.
The benefits of getting a good night’s rest often outweigh the idea that working more and sleeping less will lead to better performance or quicker results.
Here are some of the benefits of getting a good night’s rest:
- Reduced stress
- Heightened attention, alertness, focus, and cognitive performance
- Improved safety and reduced work-related errors/accidents
- Improved physical health
- Improved emotional well-being
- Reduced inflammation
- Decreased depression
Everyone’s individual sleep needs vary. In general, most healthy adults are built for 16 hours of wakefulness and need an average of eight hours of sleep a night.
However, some individuals can function without sleepiness or drowsiness after as little as six hours of sleep. Others can’t perform at their peak unless they’ve slept ten hours. And, contrary to common myth, the need for sleep doesn’t decline with age but the ability to sleep for six to eight hours at one time may be reduced.
According to leading sleep researchers, there are techniques to combat common sleep problems:
- Keep a regular sleep/wake schedule
- Don’t drink or eat caffeine products four to six hours before bed and minimize daytime use
- Don’t smoke, especially near bedtime or if you wake up in the night
- Avoid alcohol and heavy meals before sleep
- Get regular exercise
- Minimize noise, light and excessively hot and cold temperatures where you sleep
- Develop a regular bedtime and go to bed at the same time each night
- Try and wake up without an alarm clock
- Attempt to go to bed earlier every night for given period; this will ensure that you’re getting enough sleep.