Have a hard time staying focused? Feeling tired and sluggish for no obvious reason? Actually, there might a reason why you’re feeling this way. If you’re skimping on sleep, don’t expect to function at your best.

Sleep deprivation has a major impact on your work performance and productivity. It affects your memory and cognition as well as your reaction time and decision making skills. That’s why health experts recommend sleeping for seven to nine hours per night. And no, catching up on sleep over the weekend doesn’t help too much.

Sleep and Productivity: What’s the Link?

Each year, sleep deprivation is responsible for a staggering $411 billion of lost productivity in the U.S. alone. The United States is a global leader in economic losses from bad sleep habits. That’s not surprising considering that over 70 million U.S. adults have a sleeping disorder.

sleepy dog

In today’s hectic world, we’re trying to accomplish as much as possible in the shortest possible time span. A lot of us stay up all night to work, study, or have fun. Unfortunately, this only hurts our productivity – and our health.

Imagine the following scenario. You start work early, take a break in the afternoon, and return to work later in the day. A client sends you an email to see if you’re interested in a new project.

Another client cancels the meeting you’ve scheduled for next week, and decides to call you later in the day. A friend asks you for a favor, such as translating a contract, or fixing his website – and he needs it done as soon as possible. At the same time, you keep receiving notifications from Facebook and other social networks.

It’s already 10 PM and you haven’t even had dinner yet. You make a quick sandwich or a protein shake, telling yourself that you need to lose a few pounds anyway. Then you return back to your home office and start working.

By the time you finish, it’s already 2 or 3 AM. Since you can’t fall asleep right away, you watch a TV series or a movie. You’re so tired that you can’t even get in “sleep mode.” The alarm clock rings at 7 or 8 AM. The day hasn’t even started yet, and you’re feeling exhausted.

Sleepy woman

Does it sound familiar? Despite your best intentions to work until late, this habit hurts your productivity and mental focus. Even one sleepless night increases the number of errors made by surgeons by up to 32 percent. Furthermore, sleep deprivation affects your emotional balance, which in turn, puts you at risk for depression, burnout, and negative behaviors.

According to Harvard researchers, skimping on sleep leads to a decrease in productivity and efficiency while increasing heart disease risk. It also weakens your immune system, leaving you vulnerable to disease. The risk of developing a cold is three times higher for people who get less than several hours of shut-eye every night.

Sleep deprivation impacts your productivity in more than one way. It affects your memory, making it harder to learn and retrieve information in different contexts. You will also feel less creative and have difficulty making decisions or solving problems.

Poor sleep also affects your energy levels, judgment, reaction time, mood, and cognitive skills. Since it weakens your natural defenses, you’ll get sick more often. This further decreases your productivity.

Sleep Your Way to Higher Productivity

Squeezing a few more hours of sleep into your schedule can make all the difference. You will not only feel more productive but also have greater energy and make smarter decisions.

According to a study, delaying school start times by one hour has increased students’ test scores by at least two points. A better night’s sleep equals higher productivity and enhanced mental focus. Your health will dramatically improve as well.

When you’re skimping on sleep, cortisol levels go up. Cortisol, the stress hormone, can damage brain structure if its levels stay elevated for too long. Basically, it changes the brain’s neural networks, contributing to a host of mental disorders. Anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, memory impairment, and suicidal thoughts are just a few of its side effects.

Scientists have also discovered that people who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to experience headaches and migraines, and get more easily distracted. This means you’ll have a hard time focusing on the tasks at hand and completing your projects. Other studies show that individuals who skimp on sleep reach exhaustion 11 percent faster compared to their peers.

Tired panda

A good night’s sleep, on the other hand, will boost your creativity and mental alertness. This translates into higher performance and productivity. You’ll get more done in less time, react to things better and faster, and feel more enthusiastic.

Moreover, you’ll stop procrastinating and stick to your plans. That’s right – sleep deprivation has been linked to procrastination, so it makes sense to dedicate your precious time to get enough sleep.

What’s the Secret to a Good Night’s Sleep?

Even though there is no one-size-fits-all approach to sleep, you may be able to catch more ZZZ’s by making small lifestyle changes. For instance, turning off your smartphone and other electronics before bedtime will increase the chances of getting a good night’s sleep. The blue light emitted by these devices affects your circadian rhythm, making it harder to fall asleep.

Another option is to take naps throughout the day. This habit improves alertness, productivity, and sensory perception. Think of it as a way to recharge your batteries and get the energy needed to function at your peak. If you’re still working on your side hustle, this is another pro to add to the list of working from home.

There are several ways you can energize yourself

There are several ways you can energize yourself

Relaxation techniques, such as yoga, deep breathing, muscle relaxation, and aromatherapy, can help too. Meditate for 10 minutes to 15 minutes before bedtime to catch more ZZZ’s and wake up refreshed.

Regular exercise can dramatically improve your sleep – just make sure you don’t work out right before hitting the sack. Go jogging, lift weights, or take a brisk walk at least three hours before bedtime. These small changes can go a long way toward better health and productivity.