The Indisputable Link Between Performance and Sleep

successful business professionals discuss work and balance the link between performance and sleep

When you're tired, you don't perform as well as you would otherwise. A lack of sleep before a big game or an important presentation doesn't tend to be a good idea. That's intuitive. But do you know just how important the link between performance and sleep is?

Yes, we perform better when we sleep better. And, as you might imagine, we sleep better after we perform better. Of course, the opposite is just as real. A lack of sleep leads to worse performance, which leads to worse rest as we stress out over the results.

All of that seems to be common sense. So why do we continue to fall into the same patterns, making both our days and nights worse by trying to get along with as little sleep as possible? Maybe we don't understand the reasons behind that strong connection.

How Better Sleep Leads to Better Performance

You're not just a bit more tired or need more coffee. When you fail to get the right amount of sleep, your performance severely suffers. Again and again, studies unearth just how vital a good snooze is to make sure you show up ready and alert to work or school the next day.

It starts early. Even for small children, better sleep leads to better grades in school. A few years ago, a study looking into the effects of changing bedtimes for small children and pre-teens found that much, and more:

In one experiment, children were asked to go to bed later than normal for a week, and then were asked to spend no fewer than 10 hours in bed for another week. During the week of later bedtimes, teachers rated these kids as having more academic problems and more attention problems (even though the teachers didn't know they had had lost sleep). Many parents think their children go to bed early, but even 9:00 p.m. could be considered a late bedtime for an elementary school child.

Those problems get more extreme as children grow up. Another study, looking at teenagers around 16 years old, found slipping grades into being common among those with less sleep:

Our results showed that the majority of the teenagers achieved just over seven hours of sleep, with an average bedtime at 11:37 pm. Our study showed that a longer amount of sleep and earlier bedtimes—measures of sleep quantity—were most strongly correlated with better academic results obtained by the students on a number of tests taken at school. In contrast, measures that were indicative of sleep quality were mostly linked with students' performances on verbal reasoning tests and on grade point averages on tests at school.

And of course, this doesn't end when children turn into adults. Yes, they'll need less sleep as their bodies are no longer developing. But no, it doesn't mean you can get away with less than seven hours per night. A 2007 Harvard study found a lack of sleep leads to more injuries in the workplace and on the commute.

How Better Performance Leads to Better Sleep

In short, common sense finds support in scientific evidence. But what about the other way around? When you have a bad day, could that impact the way you sleep at night?

Technically, yes. In more ways than one. Earlier this year, new research surfaced showing being helpful to your co-workers can make you sleep better. Being mean, on the other hand, makes you sleep worse. And let's be honest: who among us feels like being helpful to anyone on a day when we can hardly keep our eyes open?

That doesn't mean you should fall into bed and try to forget about your bad day. That could make it worse. One study found that merely 'sleeping it off' instead of trying to handle the problems the day brought can etch the day into your memories and dreams, naturally causing a worse night's sleep.

So you need to sleep, but you might not be able to. At the same time, you cannot try to forget about it and push it out of your mind. That leads to an odd problem: how can you make sure you don't fall into an endless loop which causes worse sleep, worse performance as a result, and yet worse sleep again?

Balancing the Link Between Performance and Sleep

In other words, how can you get out of the vicious cycle mentioned above? The critical thing to note is the right strategy. Put simply; you have to make sure you get enough sleep every day. But you also have to recognize getting to that point isn't always easy. Some steps can help you get there.

  1. Establish a sleep routine. You will be amazed just how much more easily your body adjusts to laying in bed if it knows you're about to fall asleep. That routine can include anything from a glass of milk to a regular shower at the same time, or a period of reading time each night before bed.
  2. Turn down your thermostat. Trying to fall asleep only gets worse if you toss and turn and cannot get comfortable. Instead, try to sleep at around 65-67 degrees in your room.
  3. Get the right decor. Soft, warm colors without sharp edges right next to you can make a world of difference. You might not even know they're there, but your body does. Decorating your bedroom is fun in its own right, and comes with its sleep benefits.
  4. Allocate plenty of time for sleep. Don't worry about having to fall asleep right away. Instead, go to bed early enough that even if you cannot escape to dreamland instantly, you still have plenty of time to get a good snooze.

With these (and more) tips, you can get a better night's sleep and escape the alee-performance loop.

Another tip: buy the right bedding. A mattress or pillow can make all the difference in getting you comfortable enough to sleep. Contact us to learn more about our products, and the effect they might have on your performance.

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