Before you learn about the 3 surprising ways sleep can boost your career, let’s look at some startling statistics:
- “35% of adults don’t get enough sleep (7 hours per day) according to the CDC.”1
- “Most sleep disorders are preventable or treatable, yet less than one-third of sufferers seek professional help.”2
The next time you’re in a meeting, look around the room.
Are you the person who’s not getting enough quality sleep and isn’t doing anything about it?
Working after getting only 4-6 hours of sleep at night is often celebrated in our culture, but more people are starting to wake up to the professional benefits of refreshing, high-quality sleep.
Let’s take a look at just a few ways that improving your sleep situation can impact the quality of your work and boost your career.
Showing Up: In Mind & In Body
“46% of individuals with frequent sleep disturbances report missing work or events . . . compared to 15% of healthy sleepers.”3
Many of them have compromised immune systems and are getting sick, especially during times of the year when influenza cases are high.
In his popular TED talk, Matt Walker describes a study showing that just one night of short sleep reduces the body’s natural killer T cells. These are the cells responsible for rooting out unwanted pathogens. And the reduction isn’t small—it’s 70%!4
Showing up isn’t just about physical presence. It also means being mentally present and available for creative and critical thinking. Some “next day effects of poor quality sleep include a negative impact on our attention span, memory recall and learning.”5
If you’re physically present but your mind can’t focus, you won’t be able to make relevant connections, identify critical themes, or process new information. It’s therefore unlikely you’ll be able to provide valuable contributions that make you stand out.
Related: More Than Just Mind & Body.
Being a Team Player
Being a team player means successfully navigating different personalities to get buy-in for your ideas or to move projects forward, all without coming across as overly aggressive or selfish.
Accomplishing these tasks while maintaining a collaborative, “team player” spirit is a tricky balancing act. Doing this while tired? Even if you do manage to achieve your goals, you may be leaving unfavorable impressions along the way. What’s worse, you may not recognize the damage being done until it’s too late.
Better sleep won’t necessarily make you a better team player.
But NOT sleeping well could have a significant impact on how you’re coming across to the people you regularly interact with: your peers, your direct reports, and those who have significant power over your future.
High Quality Decision Making
How many decisions do you expect to make at work today? According to some estimates, the average adult makes about 35,000 conscious decisions each day6–and we all know choices come with consequences, both positive & negative.
Studies have shown that people who don’t get enough quality sleep are more likely to make riskier decisions without realizing it7.
In some professions like medicine, a risky decision that doesn’t pan out can result in the highest cost: death. If you work in finance, it can mean losing precious funds and therefore security or independence for yourself or your clients. In software or hardware development, it can mean shipping a faulty product that costs millions in recalls and damages public relations.
The best leaders exercise sound judgement and make high-quality decisions that positively impact their customers, employees, and their businesses. They are consistent, and also know when to change course to adapt to the times.
Have you ever worked with or for someone who seems to make hasty, irrational decisions with no clear rationale to back them up? Could be they’re coasting on a 4-hour sleep cycle!
Keep Yourself in Business: Prioritize Your Sleep
If you’re one of the 35% of people who isn’t getting at least 7 hours of quality sleep at night, please read this part carefully, even if it’s a little uncomfortable:
Your colleagues who are sleeping well–as well as those are taking actions to resolve sleep problems–are more present in their mind & body, are easier for others to interact with, & are making more strategic decisions. They are more productive, enjoy their work more, & advance in their careers WHILE maintaining their health.
If you want to perform at high levels of excellence AND enjoy your job, great sleep isn’t optional.
Retraining yourself to get high-quality, refreshing sleep on a nightly basis could boost your career, and be the best professional investment you ever make!
- 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Léger D; Bayon V; Societal costs of insomnia. Sleep Medicine Reviews, Dec2010; 14(6): 379-389. ISSN: 1087-0792 PMID: 20359916
- National Sleep Foundation
- Sleep is Your Superpower, TED Talk by Matt Walker
- Ohayon MM, Partinen M. Insomnia and global sleep dissatisfaction in Finland. J Sleep Res. 2002;11(4):339-46.
- How Many Daily Decisions Do We Make? UNC TV Science
- Why Getting Too Little Sleep Could Lead To Risky Decision Making by David DiSalvo, Forbes Magazine