Most everyone has felt the results of too little or poor quality night’s rest. And over time, the impact of missing sleep adds up, leading to several consequences for your work productivity. After all, feeling groggy and unmotivated is not an ideal way to start the day, especially if you want to make an impact. But research published in Nature (1) shows that a third of U.S. adults get under six hours of sleep, less than the recommended minimum of seven to eight hours.
According to Bayu Prihandito, Founder of Life Architekture and certified psychology expert and life coach, poor sleep steals your energy and focus needed for productivity. “It’s not just about feeling tired,” he says. “[Poor sleep] can lead to cognitive impairments such as difficulty concentrating, memory issues, and decreased problem-solving skills.” All of which are clearly detrimental to your proficiency at work.
On the flip side, getting better sleep can boost your productivity at work by increasing your attention span, improving your memory, and helping regulate your moods (which we all know can be a challenge even with the best co-workers), according to an article published in Nature.
We spoke to sleep experts to find out just how much optimal sleep health may have on your work productivity and for tips on how to apply this to your own life.
Sleep Improves Memory, Cognition, and Problem-Solving
Sleeping well has a significant impact on your ability to concentrate, think clearly, and make decisions, all of which are vital skills for work productivity and safety (2). “Sleep deprivation affects memory consolidation, making it difficult for people to retain information and learn new things, explains Hafiz Shariff, a sleep expert, lawyer, and the founder of Owl + Lark.
Recent research has shown that getting enough quantity and quality sleep can mean 40 percent more productivity (3) at work than those with sleep issues such as insomnia. If you sleep poorly, improving it can mean better executive functioning, such as problem-solving, creativity, and critical thinking, “all of which are crucial for productive work performance,” says Shariff.
Better sleep can also reduce levels of stress hormones such as cortisol and bolsters the immune system, making you less susceptible to illnesses that further hamper productivity. People who sleep well miss work less and perform better (4) when present, which leads to more opportunities to impress your boss and a higher likelihood of nailing a promotion.
How To Improve Sleep For Better Productivity
“Regaining lost productivity starts with addressing the root cause,” says Prihandito. And that means addressing whatever it is that keeps you from optimal sleep. The first step is figuring out potential sleep-stealing culprits that may be part of your current routine, such as social media use and exposure to blue light from screens, which may disrupt circadian rhythms. Not to mention jam-packed schedules that leave you overworked and underprepared for an optimal pre-bed self-care routine.
“It is essential to establish a consistent sleep schedule; I always recommend you go to bed and wake up at the same time every night and day (this includes weekends). This aids in regulating the body’s internal clock and supports better sleep quality,” says Shariff.
Creating a soothing bedtime routine can also help with consistency. After all, you’re much more likely to continue habits you enjoy. “Engaging in activities such as taking a warm bath, reading a book (not on a screen), or practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing or meditation can help signal the body to wind down and prepare for sleep,” suggests Shariff.
Prihandito recommends tapping into mindfulness techniques, such as meditation, deep breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation, to help soothe your body and mind before bed. All of these practices can protect against stress as well. “It’s crucial to manage your stress levels, as stress and sleep don’t mix well,” he says.
Maintaining a sleep-friendly environment is equally crucial. “Ensure the bedroom is cool, quiet, and dark, and remove electronic devices from the bedroom or use blue-light filters to lower their impact on sleep quality,” says Sheriff.
If insomnia persists, consult a healthcare professional or sleep specialist. They can provide further guidance and recommend evidence-based treatments such as cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) or, in some cases, prescribe medication to improve sleep.
Forrester, Nikki. “How better sleep can improve productivity,” Nature; https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-023-02307-z#ref-CR2; July 17, 2024.
Pilcher June J., Morris Drew M., “Sleep and Organizational Behavior: Implications for Workplace Productivity and Safety,” Frontiers in Psychology Vol. 11; 2020; https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00045
Amy C Reynolds, Pieter Coenen, Bastien Lechat, Leon Straker, Juliana Zabatiero, Kath J Maddison, Robert J Adams and Peter Eastwood; Med J Aust; doi: 10.5694/mja2.52014; July 10, 2024
Shariff, Hafiz. Author interview. July 2024.
Prihandito, Bayu. Author interview. July 2024.