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As most busy and over-worked people can tell you, sleep is often the first priority to get cut when life becomes hectic. You may think you can survive on five or six (or fewer) hours of sleep per night, but research shows that sleep deprivation can not only cause short-term and long-term health problems, it can also harm your work performance.

When you are exhausted on the job, your focus, memory and judgment suffer, and you are not able to do your best work. A good night’s sleep is not a luxury but a necessity to ensure you keep yourself in tip-top health and maximize your productivity.

An anonymous, web-based survey by pharmaceutical company Sanofi-Aventis asked 4,200 workers at four health care, transportation and manufacturing companies about their sleep habits. Participants responded that they require an average of 7.6 hours of sleep per night but got only 6.4 hours. Around 10 percent said they had insomnia, while the remaining respondents were split (45 percent in each category) between having some trouble sleeping and being good sleepers. The results demonstrated that workers who experienced insomnia or other sleep problems had much lower work performance and productivity.

From the Harvard Business Review blog:

Writing in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the researchers estimated that lost productivity due to poor sleep cost $3,156 per employee with insomnia and averaged about $2,500 for those with less severe sleep problems. Across the four companies, sleep-related reductions in productivity cost $54 million a year. This doesn’t include the cost of absenteeism–those with insomnia missed work an extra five days a year compared to good sleepers.

Research has found that sleep has numerous effects on a person’s health and productivity:

  • Sleep plays a significant role in immune function, metabolism, memory, learning, attention and judgment.
  • Sleep-deprivation makes it difficult for a person to focus and receive information.
  • Without adequate sleep, neurons aren’t able to coordinate properly and it is more difficult to remember previously learned information.
  • Judgment and decision-making becomes impaired with lack of sleep.
  • People who are consistently sleep-deprived are at greater risk for long-term health problems and chronic diseases, including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, depression, anxiety and even lower life expectancy.

Sleep is an essential component of a healthy lifestyle, but it is often sadly overlooked. How many hours of sleep do you get a night? Do you feel your work productivity suffers when you are sleep-deprived?

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