A good night’s sleep improves productivity

Failure to get a good night’s sleep can significantly alter your abilities to be productive, handle stress, and live an uncluttered life. I’m currently experiencing this phenomenon first hand since my son started teething. I have never in my life been this tired for such a continued amount of time, and I’m envious of parents whose children are seemingly unaffected by the teething process.

Actually, I’m envious of anyone who gets sleep, irrespective of if they have children. I may even be thinking mean thoughts about all of you and your well-rested state of being right now …

Where was I?

Oh yes, sleep deprivation.

We’ve talked in the past about how it is important to keep a sleep journal to determine the number of sleep hours you need to function at your best. Too little sleep and too much sleep can influence your behavior, so it’s best to know how much sleep you need. If you don’t know how to interpret the data you collect in your sleep journal, I recommend checking out the article “How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?” by the National Sleep Foundation.

Missing out on sleep affects motor skills, cognitive abilities, and other brain functions. Also, and this is the part that is most disturbing to me, being suddenly woken up (say, like by a crying baby) can have the same effects as sleep deprivation. A study by researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder found that sleep inertia (being jarred awake) is the same as being deprived of sleep for 24 hours.

From an article about the study on Medical News Today:

The study showed test subjects had diminished short-term memory, counting skills and cognitive abilities during the groggy period upon awakening known as sleep inertia, said CU-Boulder Assistant Professor Kenneth Wright, lead study author. The new study has implications for medical, safety and transportation workers who are often called upon to perform critical tasks immediately after waking, since cognitive deficiencies following 24 hours of sleep deprivation have previously been shown to be comparable to the effects of alcohol intoxication, he said.

In addition to tracking your sleep patterns, you might also want to try different methods of waking up. A blaring alarm clock might not be the safest way to wake you up from your beautiful, relaxing, glorious night of sleep.

26 Comments for “A good night’s sleep improves productivity”

  1. posted by AG on

    I must admit that I don’t have children, so I can’t relate to the whole being jarred awake. I don’t use an alarm clock that much either.

    I can’t overemphasize the importance of sleep in one’s life, however. Sleep is a restorative process. During sleep, our bodies perform necessary muscle & tissue repair from the day’s damage and our brains consolidate our memories. Sleep provides us with an opportunity for a rebirth or “fresh start” the next day. When we deny our bodies that quality time, we typically look and feel like a hot mess the next day.

    I know we all have competing priorities, but to me sleep is just as important as eating. If I eat horribly, my body feels horrible. If I sleep horribly or shortchange my body’s sleep needs, I know that my body will require repayment WITH INTEREST at 29.9% APR.

    Good intentions aren’t enough to ensure we have a good night’s sleep. We have to learn to say “no” to over-obligating ourselves and our schedules. We have to make sleep a priority so that we can be at our best & give others our very best.

  2. posted by chacha1 on

    Poor Erin! I feel for you. I have periodic hormonal and monkey-brain-related insomnia, and the days after a bad night are always but always less productive than a day after a good night’s sleep.

    What’s particularly tough, for me and probably for others, is the necessity of hewing to an artificial schedule. I am a natural night owl and have trouble getting to sleep before midnight. Add to that, I need 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep for top performance. This means that in order to get to work on time, I am perpetually getting less sleep than I need.

    About to start a new job that will necessitate leaving the house between 7:45 and 8 a.m. Which means I have to try to get to sleep around 10 p.m. The odds are against this working, alas!

  3. posted by Pat on

    To awaken gradually, try setting your automatic thermostat to warm the house 15-30 minutes before you need to get up. You might also use an appliance timer to turn on a small lamp. Some people enjoy waking to the smell of coffee brewing in the bedroom. Any of these is far less annoying than a noisy alarm.

  4. posted by Kathryn on

    Oh Erin, I totally sympathize with you. My baby boy just turned 8 months old, and has not yet slept through the night. He is a crazy eating machine, and I’m the milk mama. Needless to say, I’m definitely foggy most of the time.

  5. posted by Another Deb on

    The alarm jarring is definately an issue for me. My body clock sometimes catches me in time to silence my alarm as it clicks before the blaring noise. Then I get up.

    Not so my husband. His radio is tuned to the most blasting and annoying music station he can find (plus it is half-tuned for an extra dose of static). He does not even hear the first four or five times it sounds, and is silencing it in his sleep. If he decides he needs to get up before me, the piercing noise startles me over and over for perhaps an hour. Now that I know about the sleep deprivation issue, I will communicate to him better so I can just get up before that alarm.

    After struggling to finish work before I sleep and finding that I work better if rested, I have been getting up at 3 or 4AM to do schoolwork. I can get more done in that extra hour before the day starts than in the four hours after a long day.

  6. posted by Katie Alender on

    There’s a ton of research right now showing that sleep–and consistent sleep routines, even on weekends–is especially critical for children and their development and well-being. I just started reading (listening to) an (audio)book called “Nurtureshock” that talks a lot about it.

    Where sleep loss can make an adult groggy and cranky, it can cause permanent damage to a child.

  7. posted by Nanita on

    I’ve just started using a GoLite, which uses blue light wave LEDs. It’s supposed to help adjust circadian rhythms in addition to counteractng seasonal depression during the low-light time of year in northern latitudes. (This is definitely an issue in Seattle!)

    After just a few mornings of using the light for 15 minutes, I notice that I am more tired at night and that I have been waking up before the alarm in the morning–unheard of for me! How cool is that?

    As another night owl, now the trick is to actually Go To Bed when I’m tired, rather than falling asleep on the sofa!

  8. posted by Tod on

    chacha1, I sympathize with your plight. I used to think I was an incurable night owl, but I decided to change it. The motivator was getting up at 5 am to be at adult hockey practice at 6. The key is that I wake up at the same time every single day, and give myself plenty of time to wind down at night.

  9. posted by Dawn F. on

    Missing a good night of sleep can totally ruin my day.

    A great night of sleep for me usually involves drifting off to sleep listening to a soft piano music CD with the ceiling fan spinning and zero clutter in the bedroom.

  10. posted by Courtney on

    *snort* Hence the Itzbeen, previously of unitasker Wednesday.

    FWIW, I’m all about the co-sleeping. I don’t even have to wake up to feed her, since I’m breastfeeding. And, snuggling is the numero uno imperative of all infants everywhere. When they say to never leave your infant alone, and then tell you to leave them alone to sleep, it’s kind of paradoxical, no? Especially because infants have difficulty regulating their autonomic systems and take their cues from their mothers. SIDS is vanishingly rare, and most deaths are actually infanticide or previously undiagnosed congenital defects.

    Anyway, I find that Infant Motrin + carbs before bed + cosleeping = a longer sleep. ;)

    Good luck!!

  11. posted by Beverly D on

    I finally started paying attention to the sleep literature that said go to bed at the same time every night, no stimulation for an hour prior to bedtime, get up same time every day, etc. And it worked! I have wakened before the alarm for a couple of years now, and most days I don’t set it. The only time I do set it is if for some odd reason I have to get up earlier than usual. It would have been impossible when I had small children though, there is no way you can fully predict the needs of a changing variable. Just keep trying and know that it doesn’t last forever, which is somewhat bittersweet.

  12. Profile photo of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @Courtney — Even in my sleep deprived state, I can state with 100 percent certainty that I do not need an Itzbeen :) My son’s hunger and pain doesn’t care if I recorded it or not — ha!

  13. posted by Patty on

    May I add to all this great advice, I suffer from tinnitus, so falling asleep and staying asleep has been a real challenge for the past 11 years. I have found (right up the Uncluttered alley) having a serene room, no clutter, peaceful, helps sleeping in a big way. I rarely need an alarm clock, have two just in case, mostly for the winter months( its dark). I wake to the sun rising and find it peaceful to get going than getting jarred out of bed with an alarm.

    to all the mom’s, sleep is on it’s way…. :)

  14. posted by cdelphine on

    I’ve always struggled with my sleep schedule and waking up. I’m a night owl so waking up anytime before 9am is so painful. If I don’t set an alarm I sleep until 1pm. And I’m a really heavy sleeper so the only way I’ve found to wake myself up is an alarm clock on the other side of the room….even that doesn’t always work. I yearn to slowly wake up in the morning, well rested, able to snuggle in my bed for a bit and then get up and begin my day. *sigh* not happening.

  15. posted by Jeri Dansky on

    Another Deb and anyone else looking for alarm clocks that provide a gentler wake-up: I have a blog post (http://tinyurl.com/gentle-alarm) with some clocks that might work for you.

  16. posted by savvy on

    co-sleeping is a must with infants and teething toddlers. We co-sleep with my son (he’s 2 now), and I found it made night feedings, illnesses, and sleep regression cycles very tolerable. He was a 2-3x night nurser until about 15 months (much more frequently before then), but I was still able to function during the day because I didn’t have to wake up to feed him.

    I’m 8 months pregnant now, so our queen bed is crowded, but I still sleep better when he’s with us than when he’s not.

  17. posted by Bruno on

    Great article. I think you could improve it by telling your readers the National Sleep Foundation is funded primarily by sleeping-pill manufacturers, and exists to spread the notion that Americans are dangerously underslept. Better still, don’t even mention them.

  18. posted by Dawn on

    To the families who are co-sleeping with their infants and toddlers in their beds: I beg you to reconsider or find safer alternatives to co-sleeping – I knew a family whose lives were destroyed when their infant child was suffocated during co-sleeping. I’m sure you think “oh, that’ll never happen to me – we’re very careful…” Well, guess what, it can happen to anyone.

    Yes, sleep is important. Protecting your child should be more important.

  19. posted by Elaine Shannon on

    Welcome to the world of Mommy brain. Catch some sleep when you can, nap if posible, never feel guilty for doing it…in about 20 some years you will catch up on it again…it is a small price to pay for the joy of children :)

  20. posted by Felicia on

    Several years ago my mom bought us an alarm clock that wakes us up to doves cooing. The doves start 10 minutes before the alarm is set. They start off soft and gradually get louder until they are screaming at you. It is wonderful to be gradually awakened. The only down side is that we live in the country and actually have doves in our trees. When they start to coo early in the morning, I wake up. :) It’s still much better than a blaring alarm in the mornings, especially since my husband and I have very different schedules.

  21. posted by Magchunk on

    We just moved to a new place that is actually convenient for using mass transit. So, we’re decluttering the block by getting rid of my car, etc. The trade-off is that the last train I can catch leaves at 6:50, and I have to take a bus (and a short hike) to get there. So I’m now getting up at 5:15, whereas when I was driving I was struggling to wake up on time at 6:45. I’ve been much groggier, but at least I’m not driving that way!

    It helps me to lay out my clothes the night before, shower at night, and preset the coffee maker so I can be on autopilot for the first half-hour I’m awake. Then I can relax/snooze/waken gradually once I get on the train.

  22. posted by Jessiejack on

    May I second Dawn’s concern about cosleeping and infant safety. It is definitly a risk factor for SIDS. There are 2500 cases of SIDS in the US each year so I don’t think that is vanishingly rare especially if your child is one of the 2500. There is also the risk of suffication.It is more difficult to have kids learn to sleep alone if it is introduced when they are older. It’s better to start young.
    Motrin should not be used under 6 months old and certainly not on a regular basis to promote longer sleeping.

  23. posted by Anita on

    Can’t agree more with the importance of a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately we mostly only realise it when we are sleep deprived. Incidentally, apparently it can take two weeks for your body to get over sleep deprivation, once you start consistently sleeping enough, so sleeping in over the weekend is really not cutting it.

    As to waking up, to each their own. I have trouble falling asleep, but once I do, it takes a lot to wake me, so my radio is turned up pretty loud, to an upbeat station; and sometimes I still sleep through it for 15-20 minutes. My boyfriend, however, wakes up to very light music and gets out of bed almost instantly, so I basically need to set a second alarm clock whenever I stay over.

  24. posted by Surfin’ the Net: 10/10 | Organizing Your Way on

    [...] A Good Night’s Sleep Improves Productivity, [...]

  25. posted by Alan on

    What’s particularly tough, for me and probably for others, is the necessity of hewing to an artificial schedule. I am a natural night owl and have trouble getting to sleep before midnight. Add to that, I need 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep for top performance. This means that in order to get to work on time, I am perpetually getting less sleep than I need.

  26. posted by Open Loops 11/10/2009: Articles I Think Worth Passing Along | SimpleProductivityBlog.com on

    [...] points out to us that “A good night’s sleep improves productivity”. I’m apt to forget this basic building block of productivity; there is so much going on that [...]

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