Where’s the Productivity Gone?
The same place you left your sleep…
Are you having difficulty getting motivated to work or finding it hard to complete assignments, but can’t figure out why?
I’ve been struggling with this issue recently and was at a loss to figure out why this was the case and came across a fantastic book by Alan Derikson called Dangerously Sleepy: Overworked Americans and the Cult of Manly Wakefulness.
The book highlights how being overworked became accepted as part of the American way over the last two centuries and the effects this way of thinking has had on society and individuals.
What caught my eye was the role that disturbed sleep had on those steel workers of the early 1900s, and how it led to a lack of productivity, a lower quality of life, a dangerous work environment and death.
Although not on the level of those workers, the book helped me identify what was bringing down my productivity levels and even affecting my mood. The aim of this post is to help you identify if disturbed sleep is having a negative effect on your productivity and what you can do to correct things.
Work and Overworking
Work pressure is bad enough during the good times, but an economic crisis takes it to a whole other level. Worries about keeping your job (if you are employed), or keeping the business running (if you’re an employer) causes a lot of people to work harder and longer to help try secure their positions.
Students don’t get off scott free either. The worry about passing exams or making the grade can be equally stressful, especially when wondering how you are going to find work after completing your formal education.
And let’s not forget those of us unfortunate to have lost our incomes and are struggling to find ways to make ends meet.
Whatever the case may be, you can bet that a good nights sleep will be one of the first things to go. Working harder (by taking a second job, or working longer hours), is the default go to when the financial outlook looks bleak.
Unfortunately, this may not give us the results that we’re hoping for. Taking shift workers as an example, due to their work patterns not being in sync with their body’s circadian rhythm tend to suffer from:
- cardiovascular disease
- gastrointestinal disease
- increased accident risk
- increased disturbed sleep
- and increased fatigue
The two last points also have the added risk of increasing depression and reducing work performance.
Irregular work hours seem to exert strong, acute effects on sleep and alertness in relation to night and morning work. The effects seem, however, to linger, and also affect days off. The level of the disturbances is similar to that seen in clinical insomnia, and may be responsible for considerable human and economic costs due to fatigue related accidents and reduced productivity.Åkerstedt, Torbjörn. “Shift work and disturbed sleep/wakefulness.” /Occupational Medicine/ 53.2 (2003): 89-94.
Sleep Better, Work Better
There is hope, but as usual it means some work on our side. Although difficult, prioritising a good nights rest is important if we want to overcome any of the difficulties that we currently face. There are no if, buts or maybes when it comes to our health and our ability to overcome the stresses of daily life.
- Make sleep a priority
We’ve outlined the downsides of not doing so above, so to get good results, do the opposite to what you have been up until now. Discipline yourself to get 7-9 hours of sleep every day. There are no short cuts for this. To help, follow your body’s circadian rhythm and head to bed between 9pm and 10pm. If you are working shift work, make sure that when you get home that you sleep in a darkened room and let your household know that they have to be quiet during your sleeping hours, or buy yourself a good quality pair of ear plugs. Ultimately, if you can avoid night shifts, then do so. If not try to limit the amount of time that you do for.
- Eat good, nutrient rich foods
These help repair your body whilst you sleep and can help lift your mood which is essential if you want to be in a positive frame of mind that is beneficial for finding solutions. For example eat a banana to boost your mood when feeling down (or as a regular habit to help beat the blues). Blueberries are good for cognitive function which can help with your problem solving. There’s a lot of information on what healthy foods to eat on the web, so do a search and find what works for you.
- Meditate (daily)
It doesn’t have to be long (5 mins is a good place to start from), and can help calm you down when you are feeling a bit anxious. Including meditation in your daily routine can help clear your mind and make room for new ideas to blossom (either during or after your mediation) and can help you with a general sense of well being. As a pointer for how to meditate if you are not sure, find a quiet space sit comfortably on a chair or cushion (or whatever you are comfortable sitting still on for a few minutes), set a timer, close your eyes and breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. It doesn’t matter if you mind wanders, but when it does, bring your attention back to your breathing. Simple, quick and works wonders (just stick at it for a few days and you will start to notice the difference).
- Exerciser (daily)
Natures gift to us, just 20 mins continuous walking can make all the difference. If you like doing weightlifting, running, swimming etc, it doesn’t matter as long as you move and get your heart pumping. If you’re not sporty then dancing or singing are also good. The point is to release some of the stress build up that you have which in turn helps you to sleep more deeply which in turn helps you to have more energy to do the things that need to be done.
These are just a few suggestions that I’ve found helped me recently and I feel better for doing them. Although times can be tough, we should always make time for the things that will make a positive difference in our experience of this life that we are living.
- Make sleep a priority
- Eat good, nutrient rich foods
- Meditate daily
- Exerciser daily
I’m thankful that we live in the present day.
I feel sad for the workers in the past who sacrificed their health so we don’t have to, but I also appreciate what they did as we benefit from it now.
Even with all the turmoil that is going on around us, at least we have a chance to make a difference in our own lives and the lives of others if we decide to act in a positive way.