What if you could take a free pill that improved your productivity? What if that same pill made you feel good and improved your overall health?
There might not be an actual pill, but there is an alternative: sleep.
The Research on Sleep and Productivity
There is growing evidence that suggests a good night's sleep boosts productivity. A study done on 4,188 workers in the United States found worse productivity, performance, and safety outcomes among those who slept less. Interestingly, the study estimated a $1,967 loss in productivity per worker due to poor sleep.
Funny enough, we have modified our behavior to be healthier as a society. Studies found that tobacco was unhealthy, so we have made changes to stop smoking. Research showed the benefits of exercise, so people have signed up for fitness programs and memberships. We seem to have missed the message when it comes to sleep.
Dr. Matthew Carter, a sleep specialist, explained why we do not get enough sleep, "One of the biggest reasons that people don't get enough sleep is because they feel they have too much to do or because they are stressed about what they need to work on. So we're not getting enough work done because we're sleep-deprived and we're not sleeping because we're not getting enough work done."
Sleep has a direct correlation with productivity, but how much sleep do we need?
How Much Sleep is Enough?
In a nutshell, aim for six to eight hours of quality sleep to maximize productivity. If you have tried sleeping for six to eight hours but still feel tired, try tracking your sleep with an app such as Sleep Cycle.
How to Improve Your Sleep
Sleep can be surprisingly challenging. Whether you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, you are not alone. Here are three ways to improve the quality and quantity of your sleep, based on Dr. Carter's recommendations:
- Try not to indulge before bed. Alcohol and carbohydrates can keep you awake and negatively affect your sleep quality. Avoiding these after 8:00 pm can improve your daytime productivity.
- No screens before bed. Blue light, which is present in phones, tablets, computers, and TVs, can disrupt your circadian rhythms and regulation of melatonin. These are critical factors to getting a good night's rest.
- Create a routine before bed. Creating a night routine will signal to your body that it is time to wind down and go to sleep. For example, turn down the lights around the house an hour before bed, wear pajamas before bed only, and read a book in bed.
The verdict is clear, good sleep improves productivity. A good night's sleep will improve your work over a long period of time, not just a single day. It is a virtuous cycle in which improving productivity improves sleep, which improves productivity. There are some positive signs that our society is embracing sleep. For example, Seattle public schools pushed their high school start times back an hour. The results showed better attendance and better grades.
How many hours do you need to do your best work? Let me know in the comments below!