We’ve become a tired workforce, exhausted even. We work long hours, stay up late for household chores/family time and/or to socialize with friends. When we lay down to sleep, we often can’t or the quality is poor.
Sometimes we treat sleep like it’s an accessory, not a necessity, to our success.
Ben Stein, commentator on economic, political, and social issues, recently (3/20/11) did a segment about sleep on the CBS Sunday Morning program. He quoted Dr. Frank Knight, economist from the University of Chicago during the 1930s, 40s, and 50s who said:
“Never waste any time you can spend sleeping.”
Stein talks about all the time we spend focusing on eating well and exercising, but then don’t commit to sleep, something that rejuvenates us with literally no effort. Not sleeping, Stein says, “cheats our bodies and our minds.” When Stein thinks “sleep,” he starts with 10 hours a night not eight or six!
Sleep-deprivation has its costs.
The first smart move of business fitness is to stay well. Sleep ensures that we have the mental sharpness we need in our jobs. It also makes us less susceptible to getting sick.
Sleep deprivation can affect our personalities, coping skills, and ability to handle stress. Over time, it can change us, so we don’t remember our well-rested selves!
We put a lot at risk when we run our careers on fumes. We may think we’re moving along just fine, but the people around us can see we aren’t operating on all or, even the right, cylinders.
A successful career needs a base of positivism and consistency. Sleep deprivation starts to chip away at that. Here’s what can happen:
- Declining or inconsistent performance/productivity—Work quality and quantity starts to slip, a little at a time over time, especially on routine work. We start to save our mental alertness for the high visibility stuff, while our bread and butter work gets neglected.
- Pessimism about the job—Our attitudes become gloomy as our mental energy wanes. Others watch and start to doubt our commitment to the company and/or team.
- Little or no joy in accomplishment—We do a great job but even the praise doesn’t boost our energy. Instead we brace ourselves for the demands ahead, knowing that we’ll need to dig deep again.
- Annoyance with coworkers/the boss—Direction by the boss and actions by coworkers are viewed as just making our job harder.
- Being short-tempered, argumentative, and impatient—We have a hard time holding our tongue, even over trivial matters. Our fuse becomes short. People are put off.
- Inattentiveness and detail errors—We often make glaring mistakes that we’d never made before. We forget, overlook, and/or dismiss the details that are the hallmarks of quality work which don’t seem that important anymore.
- Doing unhealthy or inappropriate things to keep awake/alert—We start to make bad choices like too much caffeine, medication, and even illegal drugs. We may sleep on the job when our body just takes over.
- Feeling stressed out and edgy—We get jumpy, over-reacting to or with-drawing from demanding work, because we don’t feel in tune enough to cope.
- Fearful about the unknown and distrustful of colleagues—Our minds start to play tricks on us about who we can and can’t count on at work. We don’t interpret clearly or correctly the behavior and words of people around us.
- Declining self-confidence or self-esteem—We start to doubt our own capabilities. Conditions start to catch up with us and we’re too exhausted to problem-solve with a clear head.
The nearly instantaneous remedy!
Take a nap. Go to bed early for a couple of days. Recommit to a routine bed-time that gives you at least eight hours and stick to it.
Learn to say “no” to all temptations to compromise your commitment to sleep.
Your career relies on that choice and so does your life. Zzzzzzzzz!
Photo from futureshape via Flickr