As World Productivity Day arrives, we’re taking a closer look at the relationship between working hard and a good night’s rest
It’s no secret that tiredness and fatigue are the sworn enemies of productivity. When we’re exhausted, we’re far less likely to perform at our maximum capacity when it comes to work, exercise and going about our daily tasks.
Of course, getting enough quality sleep is integral to staving off tiredness and keeping our productivity levels high. But just how deep does this relationship between sleep and productivity run? In honour of World Productivity Day on 20th June, we’re exploring the research and findings that show the importance of sleep when it comes to getting the job done – whatever that task may be.
What does the research say?
Many studies have looked at the connection between sleep and productivity, and the results really hammer home the value of taking the time to rest.
One study published by the Sleep Research Society in 2018 looked at the sleep habits of 1,000 participants. By tracking both sleep quantity and quality, as well as productivity levels, the study aimed to measure the importance of the former when it comes to the latter, and the findings were clear:
“Sleep duration (both short and long), insomnia, sleepiness and snoring were all associated with decreased work productivity […] Sleep should be considered an important element in workplace health.”
And this is far from the only piece of research to draw such conclusions. A 2012 meta-analysis of 24 studies concluded that poor sleepers suffered from “significant impairments” in problem-solving and memory capacity as a result of their lack of rest.
Meanwhile, another study published in 2017 in the Journal of Interior Design looked at the impact of sleep on the output of interior design students. The study found that “students who maintained short sleep durations, highly variable night-to-night durations, or had fragmented sleep demonstrated pre- to post-study declines on the laboratory measure of creativity.”
How much sleep should you be getting?
So what do these studies tell us?
Well, the most obvious conclusion we can draw is that there is a clear and direct correlation between fatigue and lower productivity – manifesting itself in reduced concentration, memory and creativity, among other things.
It is important to note, however, that time spent in bed isn’t the whole story. Getting a high quantity of sleep is great, but so is getting good quality sleep. This means teaching our bodies when it is time to rest and when it is time to work, and the only way to do that is to set yourself a clear sleep schedule you can stick to.
Going to bed and getting up at the same time every day helps to regulate your body clock – otherwise known as your circadian rhythm. This in-built clock influences and interacts with many bodily functions, so keeping it balanced and consistent can reap genuine rewards.
For example, the circadian rhythm influences the release of energy-boosting hormones like serotonin in the morning, and rest-associated hormones like melatonin in the evening. Head to bed as your melatonin levels increase and you should find yourself dozing off faster and cycling through the different phases of sleep more efficiently.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that we aim to get between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. To ensure that this is good quality sleep, you should keep your bedroom cool and dark, and avoid certain foods and drinks in the run up to bedtime. Drinking coffee near bedtime can make getting to sleep more difficult, while alcohol may make getting to sleep easier, but can have a significant detrimental impact on the quality of your sleep.
One of the biggest misconceptions about hard work is that it demands all of your attention all of the time. In reality, as this research shows, giving yourself time to rest can make you far more productive in the long run.