Diligence, creativity, intelligence, ambition – we often associate highly successful people with these types of traits and habits. But one of the major keys to success is so basic that it’s rarely considered: sleep.

Sleep deprivation is linked to a range of problems – everything from anxiety to poor decision-making and lack of focus. If you’re struggling with any of these issues, it may be time to consider making sleep a priority.

From productivity to performance and mental health, better sleep is better for business. Learn more about the connection between sleep and workplace performance with this extract from Hult.edu:

Sleep deprivation means poorer performance and productivity

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, healthy adults should get a minimum of seven hours of sleep each night, with a recommended range of between seven to eight hours. However, Hult’s research revealed that the professionals surveyed averaged only six hours and 28 minutes.

While an extra 30 minutes of shut-eye might not seem like much, the effects of this sleep deficit were notable. Many survey respondents reported poorer workplace performance due to tiredness, with over half admitting to struggling to stay focused in meetings, taking longer to complete tasks, and finding it challenging to generate new ideas. Along with a lack of focus and diminished creative capacities, participants also indicated a reduced motivation to learn and being less able to manage competing demands.

“It is common for managers and colleagues to look at a lack of focus or motivation, irritability, and bad decision making as being caused by poor training, organizational politics or the work environment. The answer could be much simpler – a lack of sleep.”

The cumulative effect of this sleep deficit seems to be contributing to a less productive workforce. According to the National Sleep Foundation, professionals spend an average of 4.5 hours doing work at home each week, suggesting this could represent a cycle whereby workers are less productive during business hours because they’re tired, and so they have to bring work home, to the continued detriment of their sleep.

Sleep deprivation impacts your physical health

The physical effects of tiredness can be significant. A generally feeling of lethargy is a standard symptom of poor sleep, while a number of participants in Hult’s research also reported experiencing other adverse physical symptoms, such as heartburn and palpitations.

This supports numerous established studies showing a connection between the quality of sleep and quality of physical health. Decreased immune function can make you more susceptible to common illnesses, which in turn can keep you away from the office and potentially damage your career. According to one study, people who averaged less than seven hours of sleep were nearly three times more likely to develop a cold.

More troubling however are the potential long-term effects of sleep deprivation. The risk of serious medical conditions such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes, have all been linked to chronic lack of sleep.

Chronic tiredness damages social, emotional, and psychological well-being

Lack of sleep also has a profound impact on your feelings and mood. Some of the more dramatic psychological effects of sleeplessness include paranoia, hallucinations, mania, and memory loss — all of which would prove hugely detrimental on the job.

But even more subtle effects of poor sleep can prove challenging in an organizational environment. Teamwork and communication play a big role in corporate environments and are vital to professional success. A significant number of survey respondents in Hult’s sleep-related research found the interpersonal aspects of their role especially difficult when tired.

The frayed nerves, moodiness, and lack of focus associated with a sleep deficit can put a big strain on the key social relationships fostered in the workplace. An overwhelming 84% of those surveyed felt more irritable as a result of poor sleep, and well over half of the respondents reported experiencing higher levels of stress, anxiety, and feelings of frustration. Additionally, feelings of withdrawal and a lack of optimism about the future were also frequently cited, further supporting the relationship between poor sleep and poor mental health.

Lack of sleep has potentially dangerous or disastrous outcomes

Along with the emotional impact, sleep deprivation can take a toll on your cognitive abilities including perception, judgment, reaction time, and decision making.

In fact, seventeen hours of sustained wakefulness, such as a long day in the office, has been shown to result in behavioral changes equivalent to drinking two glasses of wine. If wakefulness continues for 24 hours, you may act as if you have drunk four glasses of wine. Diminished cognitive performance can have huge repercussions for professionals whose jobs demand critical attention to detail, such as surgeons, pilots, and drivers.

It has become unfortunately evident that the effects of a sleep-deprived workforce can be disastrous. The Three Mile Island nuclear meltdown, the Chernobyl nuclear explosion, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and the Challenger space shuttle disaster were all the result of human error caused by sleepiness.

Too many entrepreneurs forget the value of great sleep; it may be the very thing you need to take your business to the next level.

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Too many entrepreneurs forget the value of great sleep; it may be the very thing you need to take your business to the next level.

For more information about sleep and performance, head over to Hult.edu.

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