Want to make more money? Start by getting more sleep.
When Andy Alloway heads to bed each night around 10 p.m., he makes sure his room is clean and clutter-free, and he turns on a fan for a little noise. “From a business point of view, getting sleep affects everything, from my focus and clarity to motivation and getting things done,” says Alloway, broker-owner and CEO of Nebraska Realty in Omaha. “It has a great effect on how articulate I am with clients and employees. Maybe the biggest impact, though, is the increased energy and positive attitude I bring to the day.”
Years of research shows there is a significant connection between sleep and productivity levels at work. Employees who get an average of less than five hours of sleep a night miss 1.5 times more days of work and have 1.9 times greater productivity loss than employees who average eight hours of sleep a night, according to a 2017 study by StayWell, a research-based health solutions firm.
Sleep deprivation can lead to loss of focus during meetings, stunt your creativity, and hamper your immune system. However, our society seems to equate sleep with laziness, says Dr. M. Safwan Badr, former president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. He now serves as professor and chief of the division of pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine at Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit. “Staying up all night and burning the midnight oil is a badge of honor. But it’s very detrimental to so many things in your life, including your business,” he says.
If you want to work more efficiently, you need to get more—and better-quality—sleep. Here are some points that explain why and how to change your lifestyle and attitude toward sleep, which will also benefit your company.
Learn to wind down at night. “All phones and devices with bright lights are public enemy number one,” Badr explains. They delay your brain from shutting down, so try to keep your devices away from the bedroom in order to start a good night of sleep. Create a bedtime routine like you had as a child. Quiet your activities down, and do something that is relaxing, such as soaking in a warm bath or reading. Also, stay away from caffeinated beverages during the afternoon and evening.
Create a sleep oasis. Having a comfortable bedroom and bed that you enjoy sleeping in goes a long way in your quest for good sleep. Badr says your bedroom should be clean, cool, and dark. “We were built and programmed to fall asleep in the dark and wake up in the light,” he says.
A little more sleep goes a long way. While an extra 30 minutes of shuteye does not seem like a lot, the effects of this small increase can result in huge performance improvements. A recent report, Wake-Up Call: The Importance of Sleep in Organizational Life by Vicki Culpin, a professor of organizational behavior at Hult International Business School in Cambridge, Mass., shows that more than half of people who do not get enough sleep struggle to stay focused in meetings, take longer to complete tasks, and find it challenging to generate new ideas. Another recent study by Shleep, a sleep research organization in The Netherlands, shows that good sleep results in a 20 percent higher memory performance. Plus, the likelihood of solving a problem more than doubles from 25 percent to 60 percent after resting.
Don’t hit the snooze button. Having a dedicated bedtime and wake time is good for your body. Alloway gets up at 5:30 a.m. each day, which gives him a solid 8 to 8 1/2 hours of sleep. “If I hit the snooze, then my day gets thrown off, or I am already running behind,” he says. And when Alloway doesn’t get enough sleep the night before, he usually feels it most in the late afternoon or early evening, which throws off his focus with clients and ability to finish important tasks.
Understand the cost of not enough sleep. For workers who don’t get enough sleep, 29 percent report becoming very sleepy at work or falling asleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation. A lack of sleep costs the U.S. about $63 billion each year in lost productivity.
Stop the cantankerousness at work. Lack of sleep can cause everything from memory loss to paranoia to moodiness. Culpin’s report shows that 84 percent of those surveyed felt more irritable as a result of poor sleep, and well over half of her survey respondents experienced higher levels of stress, anxiety, and feelings of frustration.
Make sleep part of your business culture. There needs to be broader conversations about business and sleep, and it has to become part of your company culture from the top down, Badr says. “We need to make sleep cool. We ignore one-third of our life as if it’s not important,” he adds.
Encourage napping. This idea used to be considered a business no-no. But more workplaces are catching on to the idea that short siestas improve health and productivity. Sleep.org reports that companies like Ben & Jerry’s, Zappos, and Nike take their employees’ well-being seriously by offering nap and quiet rooms onsite. “Sleep needs to be prioritized,” Badr says. “On average, if everyone increased their sleep by one hour, our nation would be in much better shape.”