Mistaken Information. As we rob the night of sleep hours to get more things done, we deprive our body of much needed time for it to repair and rejuvenate itself. Sleep is what we need to stay alert and focused on the day's activities, especially in the workplace. It is commonly known that although each of us has an internal clock that is based on 24 hours, everyone's internal clock differs. Because of this, we mistakenly think we can get by with less sleep. This belief is bolstered by a time of improved effectiveness because we have more time to get things done. Most of us, however, fool ourselves and don't see the diminishing returns we are getting from our efforts. In allowing sleep deprivation to creep into our lives, we don't notice that we are getting a lot done but we could have done the same amount faster had we been refreshed and alert. If our sleep is further disrupted by working shifts, the effect of sleep deprivation on the work environment becomes substantial.
The Symptoms. Exhaustion, fatigue and lack of physical energy are common sleep deprivation symptoms. Exhaustion and fatigue affect our emotional moods, causing pessimism, sadness, stress and anger. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) has suggested that social problems such as road rage may be caused, in part, by a national epidemic of sleepiness. Other medical research at Harvard points to sleep deprivation contributing to an increased heart disease risk, higher risks of diabetes, and obesity. In situational awareness tests, operating on a sleep debt of only 2 hours is equivalent of a blood alcohol content of .06 -.08.
The Message. Safety issues arise when people are sleep deprived. Situational awareness decreases, frustration during repetitive tasks increases, and a workforce in general becomes much less productive. Sometimes the behavior of just a few sleep deprived employees disrupts an entire team. And it is difficult to rely on our own sense of whether or not we are getting enough sleep. We may very well be chronically sleep-deprived and consider that normal. The quick sleep quizz is a good discussion starter. If you answer Yes to more than three, a consult with your doctor is advised.
The Rest You Need. Productivity-wise, it is best to get the amount of sleep that we need, 7-8 hours per night, and not short-change ourselves of this precious commodity. Your sleep, or lack of it, affects your health, your family and your work.