The Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Work and Performance

Sleep is good for us. We all know this. We’ve always known this.

However this simple truth is something the business world has long willfully ignored. Sleep has always been viewed as something that gets in the way of making money.

Well, I’m here to tell you that the era of burning the candle at both ends has burnt out. Gone are the days when your performance in the office is judged by how late you leave.

Study after study has shown how important a good night’s sleep can be on every facet of our lives, including our work performance. And thankfully HR departments around the world are starting to pay attention.

Google, Uber and Ben & Jerry’s have all even installed high-tech ‘sleep pods’ in their headquarters to ensure their workers are able to catch up on missed zzzs.

If it is good enough for some of the biggest companies on the planet, then it is good enough for you and me.

Below we take a look at just some of the effects of sleep deprivation on work and performance…


Sleep deprivation has a big impact on your cognitive performance. This manifests itself in a multitude of ways but one of the most obvious is accuracy. Sleep-deprived we become slower and less precise than our usual well-rested self.

Just how bad is this effect I hear you ask? Well, one particularly revealing study found that missing just a couple of hours sleep was comparable to downing two or three alcoholic drinks.

You wouldn’t turn up to work drunk (at least you shouldn’t), so why arrive sleep deprived? Improve your sleep, increase your accuracy.

Decision making

Sleep-deprived, our neurons struggle to make connections as promptly as they should. This obviously has a negative impact on our ability to choose between two, three or a multitude of choices quickly. Especially when under stress.

Ever heard the the expression ‘let’s sleep on it’. The delaying of a decision until both sides have had time to think it over and return with fresh eyes in the morning…well, it seems there is wisdom to the old adage.

Well-rested we make better decisions. Improve your sleep, improve your decision making.

One decision you will never regret is spending a little more time reading up-to date expert advice on just how important a good night’s rest is for you. Like on The Sleep Advisor site, for instance.

Coping with distractions

Studies have shown that an individual suffering from sleep-deprivation can be just as effective in most tasks as someone who is full-rested. That doesn’t sound correct, does it? Well it is. And they can.

Unless. Yes, there is a big unless coming.

Unless they are distracted from the task. Say the phone rings, there’s a knock on the door or Mike from IT stops by to gossip. A well-rested person will be able to shake off the distraction and return to the task in hand. Not so the sleep-deprived.

The tired mind finds it very difficult to regain focus quickly and efficiently.

So, if you are finding yourself unable to focus today, ask yourself – how did I sleep last night?


Ever drawn a blank midway through an important presentation or forgotten your boss’ name mid-introduction? Well, sleep deprivation could be the reason.

The link between sleep and memory has long been established by science but just how essential that connection might be is only just being realised.

Firstly, a well-rested brain is better at taking in information. The connections made between neurons at the point of acquisition are stronger, meaning information is recorded more accurately.

Secondly, long periods of deep unbroken sleep allow the brain to process information that it has taken in over the course of the day more efficiently, a phenomenon known as ‘consolidation’.

Scientists believe the brain at night replays the day’s events – selecting important information, cataloguing and storing what it considers essential. Such as your boss’ name.

Better sleep, better memory. Don’t forget it!


Being able to perform at work is not just about how quickly you can crunch the numbers or cross all the Ts, it’s also about how well you can work with your colleagues.

The simple truth is sleep makes you more likeable. Or to be more accurate, tired people are less likeable.

Why is this? Well sleep-deprivation plays havoc with interpersonal relationships. Nobody likes being around the grouchy, impatient guy in the corner who is always yawning in their faces.

Studies have shown that tired our brain has less emotional intelligence. We struggle to recognise facial cues in others, meaning we find it hard to empathise or even just react properly.

More sleep, means more friends in the workplace. Now you just have to work on the breath

Well, there you have it – five ways sleep-deprivation can have a huge impact on your work performance.

My advice, schedule more time for rest into your daily routine and sleep your way to success.

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