Every time I look at the clock on my phone, it tells me the correct time. My biological clock on the other hand, that one is prone to errors.
The errors in my biological clock, or circadian rhythm, are most troublesome when it comes to sleep. Even if the clock says it is bed time, an error in my biological clock might keep me up for hours. Or worse, the clock may say it is time to go to work, but my biological clock says it is time to sleep.
Unfortunately, we have a lot of environmental factors that can throw off our circadian rhythms, disrupting a consistent sleep schedule. If our biological clocks were as easy to manipulate and keep on track as digital clocks, it would be easy to reset and fall asleep on time. Instead, a lot of us suffer from sleep deprivation which negatively impacts our health and productivity when completing tasks at work and at home.
Why Does Sleep Matter for Productivity?
You’ve likely encountered this mindset: “I’ll sleep when I’m dead, and until then, I’m going to be super-productive!” It’s easy to tie actions to productivity. For example, writing this article is productive.
Sleep, on the other hand, seems inherently unproductive. Time away from work, where you literally do nothing, doesn’t seem like a factor in your total productive output, but it is. Studies on sleep and productivity don’t just show that people who sleep well are more productive, they also show that when people sleep less, they are significantly less productive in nearly every facet of life.
A CDC study revealed that 35 percent of U.S. adults are not getting the recommended seven or more hours of sleep each night. When you sleep less than the recommended amount, you accrue a sleep deficit. Imagine the hard-working employee who is the first in the office and last to go home. They answer emails at 1:30 am and don’t let red-eye flights stop them from attending the morning meeting.
This person may appear productive, but under the surface, their sleep deficit is accumulating. It only takes 18 hours of being awake before cognitive functions like cognitive speed, memory, ability to focus, and problem-solving skills begin to suffer.
The thing is, when you cut an hour or two of sleep night after night, you start to rack up a sleep deficit. Pretty soon, cognitive functions are slipping, and the deficit worsens the effects. Regardless of intentions, the sleep deprived become low performers.