The effects of tiredness
TV binges, stress, working late: at some point, we’ve all missed out on a proper night’s sleep, waking fuzzy-headed and tired-eyed the morning after. But a lack of sleep doesn’t just make you feel tired. If it’s a regular habit, it can have some worrying side effects that could impact your working life.
In an age where technology means many people are ‘always on’, and where your job may be increasingly stressful, being aware of the effects of workplace tiredness could have a significant impact on your sense of wellbeing.
Low energy levels
Sleep deprivation can have a range of effects on your body, one of the most common being low energy levels.
The Great British Sleep Survey 2012 discovered that 88% of poor sleepers were more likely to suffer from low energy levels than those who got the recommended amount of shut-eye. If you go into work feeling fatigued, you may find that it’s twice as difficult to go about your daily tasks, with the day dragging and your concentration faltering. In extreme cases, fatigued employees could even find themselves struggling to stay awake.
Experts state that the first areas of your brain to suffer due to a lack of sleep are those of the highest order: the parietal and occipital lobes, and the prefrontal cortex. This is due to the bulk of your brain power being used to simply stay awake. Unfortunately this means that, as your mind drifts and you find it hard to focus, your concentration and decision-making skills may start to suffer.
When you have work to think about, this could be bad news. After all, creating ideas and thoughts, the ability to prioritise tasks, and even your day-to-day responsibilities all require focus.
Sleep has long been linked to the ability to consolidate memories – a recent study even demonstrated the phenomenon, first hand.
As we sleep, our brain orders and makes sense of the things that have happened to us, ordering our thoughts and cementing long-term memories. However, sleep also keeps our short-term memory functioning. This can make things a lot easier in everyday instances where you need to remember to make important phone calls and relay messages to colleagues.
According to Sean P. A. Drummond, director of Behavioural Sleep Medicine and Mood Disorders in the Veterans Administration San Diego Healthcare System, when your capacity for short-term memory isn’t working at its best, you may struggle to even hold three or four numbers in your mind at once. This is perfectly demonstrated by Randy Gardner. On the 11th day of an attempt to see how long a human could go without sleep, Randy was asked to subtract seven repeatedly, starting from 100. He stopped at 65, because he had completely forgotten what he was meant to be doing.
While it’s fairly unlikely you’re thinking about working straight through 11 days, when you’re consistently missing out on a couple of hours’ sleep per night, the effects can still impact your capacity to remember things.
Weakened immune system
A recent study by the Surrey Sleep Research Centre has lent further weight to the claim that sleep deprivation can weaken your immune system. Blood tests revealed that, in participants who were deprived of one or two hours’ sleep, the genes associated with things like inflammation and immune responses became much more active. When you apply this to the workplace, consistently missing out on the recommended amount of sleep may put you at a higher risk of catching the kind of bugs and infections that could keep you off sick.
The Great British Sleep Survey 2012, mentioned earlier, also revealed some interesting findings where mood is concerned. Poor sleepers were seven times more likely to feel helpless, five times more likely to feel alone and twice as likely to suffer from low mood. In fact, a single sleepless night can make you feel irritable, so imagine what could be happening to your sense of wellbeing after a continuous series of late nights.
Going into the office in the wrong frame of mind can set you up badly for the day, but when sleeplessness is coupled with the pressure many people feel at work, the effects could risk the onset of more serious mental health issues.
Did you know that one night of missed sleep is the equivalent to a blood-alcohol level of 0.1 – which is legally too high to drive? This indicates that, even if you’re missing out on just a couple of hours of sleep each night, this could very well have the same impact as being a little ‘tipsy’ at your desk. When this is the case, your sense of judgement and ability to make decisions could be impaired, which can in turn impact your work.
When life gets in the way, it can be difficult to get to bed at a sensible time and sleep right through the night. If you need some help with your quality of sleep, why not take a look at our sleep hub? It’s full of tips and advice for getting 40 winks to help you function at your best.
This article was first published 27th June 2016.