Here’s How Sleep Affects Your Career

5 min read

Career Trends: July 22, 2022
Curated by the Knowledge Team of ICS Career GPS


Poor sleep contributes to the onset, recurrence, and persistence of mental health difficulties, among other risks to your overall health and well-being.

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Sleep disorders and sleep deprivation are common challenges that can have lasting implications — affecting your personal and professional life. According to Johns Hopkins Carey Business School Professor and Associate Dean Brian Gunia, poor or insufficient sleep can lead to a variety of problematic behaviours, mental and affective health problems, cognitive deficits, and physical illnesses.

Each of these issues has the potential to harm not just the sleep-deprived individuals concerned but also their organisations. For example, unhealthy sleep can lead to distraction that prevents employees from achieving organisational goals, or it could introduce the potential for mistakes and even physical injuries. Alternatively, it could impair employees’ ability to interact productively and professionally with coworkers, customers, or others.

A large part of the population likely experiences challenges when it comes to sleep. A recent study concluded that nearly one-third of the population experience insomnia symptoms — roughly 26% experience excessive sleepiness, and 4% experience obstructive sleep apnea.

Sleeping better is something that every person can work on and improve with the right kind of support and care.

Here’s how sleep affects your career and tips to get better sleep:

How sleep benefits us

Scientists believe that healthy REM (rapid eye movement) sleep patterns help the brain focus and clear out unnecessary information. This is why you can make decisions or tasks more quickly after a good night’s sleep.

Adequate sleep supports healthy hormone functions and emotional regulation. Specifically, sleep regulates the level of cortisol — also known as the stress hormone — and helps regulate other hormones, too.

Getting adequate sleep helps you:

  • Get sick less often.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Lower your risk for serious health problems, like diabetes and heart disease.
  • Reduce stress and improve your mood.
  • Think more clearly and do better at work.
  • Get along better with people.

Association of sleep with mental health

  • Poor sleep contributes to the onset, recurrence, and persistence of mental health difficulties, among other risks to your overall health and well-being.
  • Although research most commonly studies the association between insomnia and depression and anxiety, there is also evidence that sleeping problems are associated with various other mental health difficulties.
  • For example, poor sleep has also been associated with post-traumatic stress, eating disorders, and psychosis spectrum experiences such as delusions and hallucinations.
  • Additionally, studies have found that specific sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, excessive daytime sleepiness, and narcolepsy, are more prevalent in those experiencing mental health difficulties.

Correlation between sleep and career vitality

There are several consequences of impaired sleep on your career:

  • Decision-making: Sleep loss reduces cerebral metabolism in the prefrontal cortex — the brain region responsible for cognitive processes, such as judgment and decision-making.
  • Risk-taking: A sleep study showed how sleep-deprived participants tended to opt for more monetary risk.
  • Mood and memory: One night of sleep loss increases hostility and anxiety scales as well as heightened tension, confusion, and fatigue.
  • Performance: Creativity and complex thinking are stifled with sleep loss — contributing to poor performance.
  • Less motivation: Sleep-deprived leaders will have more difficulty inspiring their workforce.
  • Circadian rhythm disruption: The circadian rhythm — physical, mental, and behavioural changes that follow a 24-hour cycle — contributes to health and wellness (or lack thereof.) An out-of-sync circadian rhythm can disrupt your daily activities and contribute to poor performance or other skills needed to be effective in your career.

How you can form better sleep habits:

A healthy amount of sleep is vital for brain plasticity — the brain’s ability to adapt to input. Sleeping too little makes you unable to process what you’ve learned during the day and you may have more trouble remembering it in the future. Good sleep habits (sometimes referred to as “sleep hygiene”) can help you get a good night’s sleep.

Techniques to improve your sleep habits and quality

  • Track sleep patterns: Use digital tools to track your sleep patterns.
  • Create a more tranquil bedroom: A pleasant bedroom environment can be an invitation to relax and doze off. Set up your bedroom to promote better sleep hygiene — create a space that is quiet, dark, relaxing, and has a comfortable temperature.
  • Set a sleep schedule: Optimising your sleep schedule, pre-bedtime rituals, and daily routines is part of harnessing habits to make quality sleep feel more automatic. Decide when to schedule waking and sleeping and stick to it.
  • Work toward a better diet and nutrition: Try to eat more whole foods and less processed foods.
  • Stay active: Regular exercise improves sleep and can help with sleep disorders such as insomnia and restless legs syndrome.
  • Natural light: Aim to get more exposure to natural light throughout the day, whether sitting by a window or going for a walk.
  • Assess medications and other diagnoses: Some medicines can affect your sleep quality. Talk to your health care provider about medications or diagnoses to see how they may affect your sleep quality.

Good sleep is critical to your health and wellness and your functioning effectively in your career. To make each day productive, take the necessary steps to ensure you regularly get a good night’s sleep.


Have you checked out yesterday’s blog yet?

Career Tips for Aspiring Software Developers 


(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the above mentioned article are those of the author(s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of ICS Career GPS or its staff.)

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