How to eliminate this ‘performance killer’

by Dr Jenny Brockis18 Jul 2016
Are you forgetting things? Lacking judgment? Feeling uninspired?
It's estimated that around 1.6 million Australians have some sort of problem with sleep. It's also costing business around $15-20 billion p.a. in lost productivity through absenteeism and presenteeism.
While going with less sleep is sometimes viewed as a status symbol of fortitude, it is a pyrrhic victory.
The more tired we are, the more our performance suffers. It’s harder to concentrate, we make more mistakes, we fail to remember things, and we even create false memories.
Most of us need between seven or eight hours of good quality uninterrupted sleep to wake fully restored and refreshed. It is estimated that up to 30% of the population get by on six hours.

While manageable in the short term, this is not sustainable to maintain normal brain function and health.
Being drunk is not tolerated in the workplace, so why is workplace fatigue?
Once we have been awake for around 17-18 hours, our ability to think is equivalent to having a blood alcohol level of 0.05%.
Restoring memory, attention and executive function can be achieved by identifying and addressing those factors contributing to our levels of tiredness.
Understand the value of sleep
Some organisations now include sleep education to promote healthy sleep habits for all employees. Understanding how to get sufficient good quality sleep is just as important as time management for greater productivity.
Make sleep a priority
Research has revealed how our capacity for insight and creativity slumps when we are tired. Some workplaces provide sleep pods for employees to take a brief 20-minute power nap to restore energy levels and good executive function.
You don't need a posh pod, just a quiet room where you won't be interrupted and a comfortable reclining chair. Around 6% of American workplaces are now deemed nap friendly. While sleeping on the job might feel strange, the payoff is a 2-3 hour boost to your level of alertness, attention and focus.
Provide flexibility and boundaries in working hours.
If you've been pulling a couple of all-nighters or putting in extended hours to get that important project finished, what matters is taking sufficient time off afterwards to allow full recovery. Shifting a workplace culture towards one that recognises the importance of sleep, starts with setting boundaries of when you are expected not to be at work.
Monitor stress levels
High levels of stress during the day make it harder to switch off and relax at night. If your sleep pattern is becoming increasingly disturbed and there's a lot on at work, this is the signal you are in urgent need of some down time. Try going to bed 20 minutes earlier and switch off all technology (including the phone).
Take regular brain breaks
Working hard all day long without pausing to draw breath is mentally exhausting and can lead to disturbed sleep at night. Block your day into 60-90 minute chunks interspersed with 15 minute intervals for unfocused or less cognitively demanding tasks. This will give your brain the breathing space it needs to restore and reboot.
Get out of the office and move
Regular daily exercise helps to burn off stress and promotes better quality sleep. Thirty minutes of 'huffnpuff' either before work or during the day is ideal. Avoid exercising too late in the evening as this paradoxically makes it harder to get to sleep.
Keep the bedroom for sleep
Switch off all technology at least 60 minutes before bedtime and ditch the digital alarm clock.

Using your smartphone late at night has been shown to reduce daytime performance the following day.
Sleep matters for our health, wellbeing and performance. Bringing our best self to work each day starts by ensuring we get a good nights sleep every night.
Dr. Jenny Brockis is a medical practitioner, speaker and author of the best selling book Future Brain: The 12 Keys To Create Your High Performance Brain (Wiley).