Oftentimes, our working culture suggests that the key to success is putting in long hours, sacrificing sleep and wellness for the ‘grind.’ But is that really the way to get ahead? Some experts don’t believe so.
In this issue of the Pulse, we are exploring sleep. How much do we need? What priority should it take? And how can we use it to counter workplace stress and manifest success?
How much sleep do we really need in order to be well-rested and ready to tackle work? One school of thought promotes the 42% rule to foster mental health and reduce work stress.
This means that 42% of your time over a given period – whether it be a day, a week, or a month – should be dedicated to rest. That’s an average of 10 hours per 24 hour period, if you choose to break it into days. This is the ratio your body needs to function at its best.
Think about times in the past where you’ve needed to ‘catch up on sleep.’ Maybe after you came home from a trip, or couldn’t sleep on a long flight. Maybe after you put in extra hours on a big project. If, afterwards, it felt like your battery was completely drained and you needed more rest than usual to get back to normal, this is likely because you were missing your 42%.
Rest doesn’t have to be sleep.
Although it may seem utopian to imagine sleeping for ten hours every day, your 42% doesn’t have to be solely comprised of sleep. Restful activities can also include:
- Relaxing/connecting conversations with loved ones
- Certain kinds of exercise
- Activities or hobbies that help you destress
Essentially, if you’re using more than fourteen hours a day – or the equivalent ratio in a given period – on work or other strenuous, productive activities, your body might demand you catchup on rest some other time.
How do sleep and rest impact your stress levels?
Stress is more than just an emotional state. It’s physiological as well, impacting everything from your immune system to your digestion. Likewise, stress is connected to how much we allow ourselves to rest.
- Trouble focusing
- Poor memory
- Muscle strain
- Increased risk of several chronic illnesses
All these things, especially irritability, memory, and focus issues in the short term, can have a significant impact on workplace stress and performance. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association (APA), “most Americans would be happier, healthier and safer if they were to sleep an extra 60 to 90 minutes per night.”
The APA has also found that stress levels are higher in individuals who sleep fewer than eight hours a night.
How does stress impact your work performance?
While a certain amount of stress can keep you on your toes – some people work best under pressure, after all – in general, stress can have an extremely negative impact on your work life. The long term affects of stress on your job may include:
- Strained relations with your coworkers and supervisors
- Diminished self-esteem and confidence in your performance
- Lack of focus
- Trouble processing new information
- Increased likelihood of errors during both analytical and physical tasks
- Poorer overall health
Sleep is incredibly important to our bodies, our minds, and every aspect of our lives. In order to be our best selves both at work and at home, it’s important to prioritize sleep and rest in our daily schedules.
Despite the pressures of a culture that celebrates all-nighters and overtime, one of the best things you can do for your career success is build healthy sleep schedules into your life and respect your body’s needs.