As many people know, lack of sleep affects our performance and the more stress we experience, the less we sleep. About 30% of workers surveyed in Germany, Austria and Switzerland complained of a lack of sleep or a sleep disorder. A good sleep forms part of a good night's rest and can improve your mood, motivation and cognitive ability. Furthermore, the amount of time you sleep is just as important as the quality of your sleep. Between 6 and 7 hours of sleep can be enough for some, whereas others may need 8 or 9 hours a night.
The amount of time you sleep is crucial because your brain processes both old and new information during the second part of the night, which is the time when REM sleep is most important.
Causes of sleep deprivation
1. If various things that have happened during the day are occupying your thoughts, you won’t sleep as well. Constantly being on the go, noise, jet lag and shift work are all factors that can affect your sleep.
2. Many people have an unusual or even unnatural sleep-wake pattern. Our lives run according to our internal clock, which is based on switching between day and night with different phases of sleep and periods of being awake. Our bodily functions and mental state are finely tuned to these rhythms. If our daily lives are out of sync or even opposed to our internal body clock, you can develop chronic insomnia.
Other causes can include:
- Stress at work, psychological pressure, shift work, jet lag and travel;
- Foods, alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine;
- Lack of essential physical exercise. We need this to stimulate our circulation, relieve tired muscles, release tensions and alleviate other health problems. However, you should avoid taking part in sport to close to bedtime.
- Your sleep environment, including the brightness, quality of your bedding, air quality, odours, noise and temperature.
How can you tell if you’re suffering from a chronic or an acute lack of sleep?
- If we’re deprived of sleep, we can suffer from negative effects in our professional life. The most common symptoms are:
- Not being able to fall asleep, waking up in the night and not being able to get up in the morning;
- Experiencing fatigue, irritability and mood swings during the day;
- Suffering from a lack of concentration, restlessness, nausea, headaches and dark circles under the eyes.
What are the long-term and short-term consequences in relation to your work?
- Studies have shown that a lack of sleep can cause a decrease in performance ranging from 10% to 50%. This is particularly due to the following problems
- Difficulties during meetings, discussions and presentations
- Frequently forgetting things such as tasks you need to do, deadlines you need to meet
- Problems focusing in longer meetings
- Difficulty performing long, intense tasks without being distracted by other things
- Slower reaction times: For some jobs, reactivity is essential. If you react too slowly when there’s a problem, this can have financial and personal consequences.
Treating insomnia and sleep problems
- With the help of a doctor, look at any physical or psychological factors that could be having an effect and take effective measures to deal with these so you can get to the bottom of what’s causing your sleep disorder.
- Spend 1 or 2 hours of ‘you time’ every evening before going to sleep, without working or using your phone or computer but just relaxing. Read a book, indulge in your hobbies, have a soak in the bath or do anything else that you find relaxing.
- Eat a balanced diet and avoid nicotine, alcohol and caffeine whenever possible.
- Build some exercise into your daily routine. This doesn’t mean you have to take up competitive sports and just going for a walk at lunchtime can be enough.
- Get yourself to follow a regular sleep-wake pattern by getting up in the morning and going to bed at night at regular times. Of course, this has to be work permitting.
As Goethe once said:
"Sweet sleep, you come like good fortune, without prayer; your presence is not something we ask for but is unbidden; you untie the knots of serious thought ... mingle all our images of joy and sorrow ... we totally relax and all inside us is in complete harmony... and we are lost in a wonderful kind of chaos as we plunge into the bosom of nothingness."
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe