A highly busy person is seen as someone who works tirelessly, working both day and night for their goals. Some even strive for this, and stay up late working all hours, surviving on sheer determination, and a significant amount of coffee. This kind of behavior is destructive. Working without sleep, or working when you haven’t slept enough can have a great impact on your ability to focus, function, and your health overall.
In 1999, a plane, American Airlines 1420 crashed on the runway of Little Rock Airport, Arkansas.1 There was nothing out of the ordinary about the flight, such cross country flights are routine, the kind every pilot in the world makes hundreds of times in their career. The plane was working perfectly. Yet the crashed killed 11 people, including the captain, and wounded over one hundred others. After some investigation, it was concluded that the pilots were too fatigued, and didn’t pay full attention the the situation around them, and failed to activate the spoiler system, a device in the plane to aid in landing.
Of course, not all of us are airline pilots, but think about it, how many times have you heard about fatal car accidents that were caused by a tired driver, or a lack of attention. It is extremely common. It has been estimated that 100,000 car accidents per year occur because the driver was fatigued.
Why do we sleep less now?
As human beings, we have evolved to function around the day and night cycle. For centuries, low light conditions signalled to us that it was time to sleep. However, since the invention of electronic lighting, we have created environments where we can remain constantly in bright light conditions, whether it is in the middle of the night or the middle of the day. What’s worse, it has been discovered that the light emitting from an LED screen, the kind on our phones, tablets, computers, or TV actually slows down or even stops the melatonin , a hormone in the brain which enables us to sleep.3 As a result, either through our own behaviour or our devices, we are getting less sleep than we need in order to function.
There have been countless studies into the effects of sleep deprivation, and almost all of them show that it is extremely damaging. Symptoms can range from difficulty focusing, to greater risks of heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. By not sleeping as much as we need, we could be putting ourselves in considerable risk.4
The dangers aren’t just health related. Being even slightly sleep deprived can have a huge and disastrous impact on your productivity. It has been shown that losing 90 minutes of sleep can reduce your alertness by as much as one-third. If you’re working in a high pressure and demanding environment, that can have a massive impact on your productivity.5 Your mental state after four hours of sleep is similar to that of legal drunkenness.6
However, those who sleep the recommended eight hours per day find they remain focused throughout the day, with few, if any impairments to their mental functioning.
A small adjustment can turn things around
Make a small adjustment in your sleeping habit, as small as 15 or 30 minutes, can make a great difference on your energy level the following day.
Try to gradually add 15 minutes of sleep to your nightly schedule every day. Continue with this until you feel fully rested the next morning. By then you’ll find out exactly how much sleep you need to feel energetic. When you realize the time you need to sleep to gain sufficient energy, stick to that time.
There are a number of things you can do to improve your sleeping. Check out this article if you want to sleep better: 15 Ways to Sleep Better, and Wake up Refreshed
You might find yourself surprised about how much of an impact a tiny adjustment to your sleep pattern can have. Retaining a healthy sleeping pattern will help keep you alert, highly functioning, and productive throughout the day.