New study highlights importance of work-sleep balance

Sleeping for just 16 minutes less than normal in a single night is enough to seriously impact your performance at work the following day, according to new research.

The sleep study, carried out by experts at the University of Florida and published in the Sleep Health journal, surveyed 130 healthy employees who worked in the IT sector. In addition, each participant had at least one child.

The research found that those who snoozed for as little as 16 minutes less than the amount of sleep they typically get said they had a worse quality of rest. They also indicated this affected their performance at work the next day. Cognitive issues, such as impairment of judgement and being easily distracted, were the main problems, with workers experiencing a more stressful day as a result.

Lead author Soomi Lee, PhD, assistant professor in the School of Aging Studies said:

“These cyclical associations reflect that employees’ sleep is vulnerable to daily cognitive stress and also a contributor to cognitively stressful experiences.

“Findings from this study provide empirical evidence for why workplaces need to make more efforts to promote their employees’ sleep. Good sleepers may be better performers at work due to greater ability to stay focused and on-task with fewer errors and interpersonal conflicts.”

What can you do to improve your work-sleep balance?

With the results of this study in mind, we thought we would share some of our most useful tips for managing that work-sleep balance to ensure you can function effectively in your job.

Know how much sleep you should be getting

It’s important to remember that, no matter how hard you work, you’re still human and you need to get the right amount of sleep. Between the typical working ages of 18–64, you should be aiming to snooze for around 7–9 hours a night (Sleep Foundation) and, as the research shows, even small deviations from this can have a major impact.

Even if you believe you’re one of those people who can survive on a small amount of sleep, it’s probably worth acknowledging you probably aren’t and you actually might not be working to your full potential on reduced rest. Another study found that roughly 1% of humans are “short sleepers”, so the chances are quite slim.

Stick to a routine every day

Because we’re creatures of habit and rely on our internal body clocks to know when to feel alert and tired, it can be beneficial to stick to a daily routine for waking up and going to sleep. This is because we can train our bodies to anticipate these crucial phases by partaking in certain activities at a regular time each day before and after work.

From taking a walk and enjoying a cup of coffee in the morning to soaking in a bath and reading a book before bed, there are plenty of ways to help your mind and body warm up and wind down.

Explore the possibility of taking a daytime nap

Though it might not be for everyone, taking a short daytime nap is one of the best ways to catch up on lost sleep and refresh your brain during the working day.

If you work from home or have flexible hours, this can be done fairly easily, but you may need to run the idea of setting up a nap room at work past your boss if you work in an office. Check out our past blog post on the art of napping to pick up some handy tips and tricks.

Leave your work at the office (and out of the bedroom)

One of the most important factors in getting your work-sleep balance just right is creating a personal boundary between your office hours and winding down time.

If you’re in the habit of bringing your work home or answering emails late into the night, you might want to rethink your strategy. Not only does thinking about your job in the late hours make it likelier that you’ll go to bed stressed, but the blue light emitted from electronic devices can trick your brain into thinking it’s still daylight, disrupting the sleep process.

Therefore, it’s a good idea to make your home a work-free zone, and somewhere you can go at the end of the day to concentrate on relaxing. And, be sure to leave any screens outside of your bedroom to avoid keeping your brain awake.

Make your bedroom a haven for sleep

Carrying on the theme of making your home as sleep-friendly as possible, you should also aim to make your bedroom a restful haven that’s set up to provide high-quality rest after a hard day’s work.

Start by optimising the conditions in your room for sleep. The ideal temperature range is between 16–18 °C (Sleep Council) and you need to make your bedroom as dark as possible — use blackout blinds or heavy curtains, if necessary.

You should also ensure your mattress is as comfy as possible, replacing it with a new model if it does not provide adequate comfort and support. Check out our guide to replacing your mattress if you’re unsure whether your current one is past its sell by date. We also have a wide range of bedding that’s ideal for refreshing your bed, including mattress toppers, pillows, and duvets.

Take our advice on board and you will be able to get a much better work-sleep balance. If you have any questions or would like help kitting out your bedroom, then get in touch.

Our blog and advice centre are also great places to get extra information.

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