How Do Sleep And Wake Times Affect Corporate Productivity?

7 min read

Last Modified 2 June 2021 First Added 3 September 2016

By Leigh Horan

We all want to make the most of our time and when it comes to the corporate world, productivity is the lifeblood of any organisation. Workers are urged to use their time effectively to best benefit the company and are often monitored to ensure they expend their energy on the right things. But how can you be your most productive self if you’re falling asleep in meetings and find yourself completely incapable of maintaining your focus on a task? As it becomes more common for workers to push themselves to impossible limits we take a look at how working hours actually impact our sleep and eventually decrease productivity in the workplace.

Sleep Data and Corporate Productivity

What time we go to sleep, wake up and how long we sleep overall has a massive impact on how rested and productive we are the next day. The Sleep Cycle alarm clock app collected data from around the world from over 291,778 people for 1,755,996 nights. This data shows how long, on average, each country typically sleeps for and what time the country as a whole generally goes to sleep and awakes. As sleep specialists, this data is of great interest to us here at The Sleep Matters Club.

However, when reviewing the data against the GDP of each nation that was monitored in the study there was no clear link between the hours slept and the productivity of that nation. Of course, there are countless studies that highlight how lack of sleep affects performance at every level, and so for this to not be indicated only shows that you can only be as productive as the infrastructure available to you. In other words, those countries that survived on little sleep but were at the top of the world’s GDP rankings had a historically strong infrastructure.

On an individual basis however, there have been countless studies to prove that surviving on little sleep is incredibly detrimental for health, and especially where productivity is concerned. In fact, it’s a topic that we have covered extensively in our endeavours to educate everyone on the importance of getting enough sleep, and quality sleep, too.

Read more: What Happens To Your Brain During Sleep Deprivation?

How work affects sleep

Studies have shown that waking at a time that isn’t natural to your personal body clock eventually leads to sleep deprivation and its various associated health problems. Unfortunately, for most of us, typical working hours are often not complimentary to the majority of body clocks, meaning that many of us work against our circadian rhythms on a daily basis. Our natural wake time also changes as we age. According to Dr Paul Kelley of the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute at Oxford University, “A 7am alarm call for older adolescents is the equivalent of a 4.30am start for a teacher in their 50s.”

image of woman struggling to wake

This means that regularly forcing ourselves to wake up for the traditional 9-5 leaves us sluggish and irritable, as we consistently go against our natural inclination to stay in bed for our intuitive wake up time.

How this affects corporate productivity

Consistent sleep deprivation eventually makes your mind compensate by normalising the conditions that you’re living in. Those living with sleep deprivation may feel well rested and able to work well enough but the ability to distinguish between being truly rested and a kind of faux-rest disappears once you enter a permanent state of sleep deprivation. Tasks that require attention are much harder to focus on when you’re sleep deprived, and though a sleep deprived person may be able to work at the same level as someone who is well rested, the difference is that this will be at maximum effort and concentration.

image of woman asleep at desk

It’s also much harder to remain focused on a given task and once focus wavers it’s almost impossible to regain it. Sleep deprivation severely inhibits the prefrontal cortex, which regulates long-term thinking and the ability to focus. Lack of sleep also means that we don’t consolidate the information we’ve learnt in the day, as information only becomes ingrained with enough REM sleep. What this all means is that sleep deprivation effectively makes us ineffective and incapable of working for long enough to be particularly productive.

Related: How To Unwind From Work In The Evening

How to improve corporate productivity

Of course, the best solution would be to rearrange working hours to suit the individual, or the age category. Of course, this may not be feasible for many businesses, even though productivity levels would be likely to increase. Another option would be to take regular daily naps of around 20 minutes or an hour to prevent tiredness throughout the day. Naps of this length are proven to help boost and restore brain power and impact mood, helping to get employees through particularly frustrating tasks.

image of overworked man

Another way of improving corporate productivity is by ensuring employees aren’t overworked. Any individual with too much work will sleep less to make sure they finish the various tasks assigned to them. Lack of sleep encourages the release of the stress hormone cortisol in the body which then makes it even harder to sleep. This also takes energy away from your immune system, meaning employees that are under too much pressure are also more likely to fall ill, resulting in sick days. This eventuates in a massive dip in productivity overall.

By ensuring that no staff member is under great deals of stress and pressure the overall result will be a workforce that, hopefully, enjoy satisfactory sleep on a nightly basis. Meaning that not one person suffers from a lack of sleep and the ill health that occurs as a result.

Pioneers of productivity

Increasing productivity could be as simple as waking up a little earlier in the day, as long as this is balance is going to sleep earlier too. Our brains need sufficient time to ‘warm up’ in the morning, which is why waking up a little earlier than we need to can have a massive benefit as we have to rush about less. The fact that some of the most productive people wake up earlier in the day has been well documented.

image of relaxed woman in morning

Read more: Dr Christian Jessen Writes On The Importance Of Sleep

Not only does waking up earlier give you more control over your morning, but being awake earlier means avoiding distractions caused by other people being awake. This includes having to tend to the needs of children, partners and work emails and having to rush to get ready for work. Being awake earlier means you have some space to breathe and are able to pursue personal interests, such as reading, writing or meditating, for example, before joining the rat race. However, waking up earlier means going to sleep earlier, too! Being as productive as possible involves being organised and hitting the sack at the same time every night. Improve your sleeping habits and your productivity at work will increase massively.

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Monitoring your sleep

At The Sleep Matters Club we pay a lot of attention to the realm of sleep, including how to better it in a variety of ways, what affects it and what it does for your body. However, what we do know is that sometimes it can be difficult to know where you’re going wrong. If you’re still finding that your sleep is unfulfilling after checking that your diet and lifestyle aren’t adversely affecting your nightly routines then you may find that other information is needed. For that very reason Dreams have created the Sleep Matters App, a free mobile application designed to track your movement and sleep times throughout the week so you can know what needs you should be addressing.

How is your work affected by lack of sleep? Let us know in the comments section.

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