Have you yawned today? It’s a common reflex that many mammals exhibit, and yet it’s poorly understood as to exactly why we yawn. If there’s one thing that many people believe, however, it’s that yawning is an indication that we’re tired!
So how does being tired play a role in our daily lives? Well, if you’re not getting enough sleep, there are a number of potential side effects that you may experience other than yawning. These side effects will directly affect your quality of life and/or the quality of your work, the people around you, and if allowed to progress to a certain point can potentially cause you mental and physical harm.
When you aren’t getting enough sleep, this is called sleep deprivation. Unfortunately, it’s fairly common for the modern individual to suffer from lack of sleep due to our fast paced, technology-driven lives.
Signs of sleep deprivation may include constant yawning, the tendency to doze off when not active for a while, grogginess when waking in the morning, sleepiness experienced all day long (sleep inertia), poor concentration and mood changes (more irritable), and so on.
According to BetterHealth.com, below are the most common causes of sleep deprivation:
- Personal choice – some people don’t realize that the body needs adequate sleep or don’t know how much sleep their body requires. Instead of regularly going to bed at a reasonable hour, they prefer to stay up late to socialize, watch television or read a good book.
- Illness – illnesses such as colds and tonsillitis can cause snoring, coughing, gagging and frequent waking, and have a direct effect on sleep by fragmenting it.
- Work – people who do shift work disrupt their sleep-wake cycles on a regular basis. Frequent travelers (for example, airline crew) also tend to have erratic sleeping patterns.
- Sleep disorder – problems such as sleep apnoea, snoring and periodic limb movement disorder can disturb the person’s sleep many times during the night.
- Medications – some drugs used to treat disorders such as epilepsy or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can cause insomnia.
- The sleeping environment – sleep may be disrupted for a range of environmental reasons; for example, because the bedroom is too hot or cold or because of noisy neighbors or a snoring bed partner.
- Poor sleep habits – some people’s habits are disruptive; for example, drinking coffee or smoking cigarettes close to bedtime stimulates the nervous system and makes sleep less likely. Another common problem is lying in bed and worrying, rather than relaxing.
- Babies, older babies and toddlers – parents almost always experience sleep deprivation because their young children wake frequently in the night.
How Sleep Affects Work Performance
As listed above, the amount and quality of sleep that you get each night is incredibly important to your overall health. If left unchecked, lack of sleep can have very specific impacts on your work life.
For example, let’s say that a person who needs eight hours of sleep per night only gets six. This two-hour sleep loss can have a major impact including:
- Reduced alertness
- Shortened attention span
- Slower than normal reaction time
- Poorer judgment
- Reduced awareness of the environment and situation
- Reduced decision-making skills
- Poorer memory
- Reduced concentration
- Increased likelihood of mentally ‘stalling’ or fixating on one thought
- Increased likelihood of moodiness and bad temper
- Reduced work efficiency
- Loss of motivation
- Errors of omission – making a mistake by forgetting to do something
- Errors of commission – making a mistake by doing something, but choosing the wrong option
- Microsleep – brief periods of involuntary sleeping that range from a few seconds to a few minutes in duration as well as motor impairment/lack of coordination.
These are all qualities that no employer should be seeing in their employees on a regular basis. Sleep deprivation not only impacts the quality of work being performed, but can severely affect the company’s bottom line in the long run.
When The Job Causes Lack Of Sleep
Overtime is a word that causes distress in some, and happiness in others.
If you’re an employee who is being forced to work 10-12 hour days, make sure that you’re familiar with local, state, and federal labor laws. It’s bold to say that every employer has their employees’ best interests and health in mind…unfortunately, this isn’t the case. In the U.S., “at-will-employment” is the law of the land – this means that nobody can force you to work, but that also means if you choose not to work then your employer can choose to let you go.
It’s a pretty fair deal.
Generally speaking, of course, no employer likes to have their employees working overtime. It’s costly, stressful, and doesn’t bode well for a company’s reputation, ability to hire good workers, or employee retention rate. Some employees may not like working overtime due to the other things they’d like to be doing outside of work hours.
There are employees, however, who do enjoy overtime because of the “time-and-a-half” rule. These individuals are at the highest risk of experiencing sleep deprivation.
For instance, let’s say there’s a customer call center that’s understaffed and operates 24/7. Employees who are single with no pets or children may be more likely to spend up to six extra hours at their jobs to earn more money. There are also parents working overtime as much as they can just to make ends meet.
Remember that these employees still have to spend time commuting to and from work, bathing, doing chores around their home, cooking and/or getting a bite to eat, and taking care of their dependents among other tasks.
The obvious answer to this problem is to simply sleep more – right? Well, it’s not that simple.For those with health problems such as insomnia, diabetes, joint pain, and other issues, this can be more of a challenge. Medical advancements and technology have allowed us to overcome many of our nightly sleep challenges, but technology has also caused a lot of these issues as well.
Our modern culture has drastically changed our circadian rhythm – that is, the natural sleeping cycle of the animal kingdom (sun goes down, we sleep – sun comes up, we wake up). There have been thousands of sleep studies performed throughout the world, and throughout the years experts have found that adults should sleep a minimum of seven hours each night (according to MayoClinic.com). It’s up to each of us to work closely with our medical professionals so we can make sure that we’re getting enough sleep.
Your quality of sleep matters as well, and it’s not something that a lot of people really take into consideration.
You’ve heard people say that they “didn’t sleep well”, “tossed and turned all night long”, and “kept waking up”. Issues like these degrade your sleep quality, and should be assessed by a medical professional to help you get the best sleep you can while you’re actually sleeping.
Sleep is many times not considered as important by modern culture, but it’s just as important as it’s ever been for human beings.
When we don’t sleep, it impacts our health and performance. Lack of quality shuteye for the appropriate amount of time can severely impact our physical, mental, and emotional health over long periods of time. Sleep deprivation can cause issues in the workplace, and damage social interactions with colleagues and other individuals in your life.
In short, make sure you’re getting enough quality sleep!