It’s never pleasant to work when you’re exhausted, but it’s a common concept that losing sleep in pursuit of pushing yourself is better for business. Despite the number of people who live by this idea, it’s not true. Mental fatigue does more harm than good.
Exhaustion Physically Changes the Brain
Scientists have found that a lack of sleep slows metabolism in several regions of your brain. Cells create energy at a slower rate, and in turn leave less and less energy to work with. In addition, blood flow lessens in the same sections. Cutting corners on sleep means your brain is literally running low on stamina.
The Frontal Cortex Suffers the Worst
This section is essentially the part of the brain that makes us human. The physiological constructs of memory, perception, and diverse cognitive processes all rely on the prefrontal cortex (PFC). Lack of sleep affects the area most strongly. It becomes harder to maintain complex thinking, and the analytical sections of the mind defer to more reflexive processes. The result is over-thinking and autonomous repetition without progression. In essence, you keep doing the work, but you get less accomplished.
When to Throw in the Towel
Each person is different, but the National Sleep Foundation recommends between 7 and 9 hours of sleep for most adults. Listen to your body and the signs it gives you, and adjust accordingly. Daytime drowsiness is the most common symptom of sleep loss. A depressed mood, inability to concentrate, and memory troubles can also signal the need for some rest. It may be better to put off extra work for the next day and give your brain a chance to recharge.
Lots of people also interfere with their natural sleep cycles with stimulants such as coffee, energy drinks, and external lights. Taking time away from screens and reducing caffeine intake can help your body rest more efficiently when you do sleep. Remember that overworking yourself is counterproductive in the long run. A few minutes unwinding could equal a few hours of better rest.
How to Ensure Your Employees Are Well Rested
- Be involved. Speaking to your employees can help you catch signs of sleep loss and puts you in a better position to approach them with concern.
- Encourage healthier lifestyles. Something as simple as a weekly newsletter can teach employees about balancing work and life.
- Provide training. You can tack a simple rundown of sleep loss symptoms and their effects on health and productivity onto any regular meaning. It’ll show employees that you care and keep them conscious about their well-being.
While instinct may tell you to keep pushing through, exhaustion will only make you less productive. Be conscious about the signs and symptoms, and make sure you and your employees are getting the rest needed to be your very best on and off the clock.