Whenever I have conversations with people about sleep, I always ask them two questions that you, as a reader, can ask yourself honestly: How much sleep do you need to function at your best and most productive level? And, what is the average amount of sleep you’re getting on a daily basis? More often than not, there is a discrepancy between how much sleep they know they require to function best and what they actually get on a daily basis.
This is no shock to most people and, as a sleep expert and health psychologist, it really doesn’t surprise me at all. We hear it time and time again: building healthy sleep habits is essential to living a truly healthy and productive life. And we know it to be true, as 92 percent of global adults in the U.S., Netherlands, France, Germany and Japan recently surveyed by Harris Poll on behalf of Phillips view sleep as crucial to their overall health and wellbeing. We also know that it is necessary for us to get the amount of sleep we need each night, even if we might not always follow this adage. However, something we might not necessarily know (or even think about) is the ways that a lack of sleep impacts our day-to-day lives. Research shows that it causes greater risk of diabetes, mental illness and other life-threatening conditions. What’s more, unhealthy sleep habits can cause strain on other aspects of our lives, such as workplace productivity and personal relationships. And when we look at our relationship with sleep more globally, our perception becomes even more complex.
There’s little doubt that sleep impacts multiple areas of our lives, but with today being World Sleep Day, it is more important than ever to consider the ways that getting a good night’s sleep (or not getting a good night’s sleep) can have vast impacts on our productivity or relationships.
Work and productivity
Striking the balance between good sleep habits and working a full-time job or being a student is certainly not easy. And it is no secret that today’s workplace is moving towards never-ending to-do lists and back-to-back meetings, so most times there is a perception that those who work longer must work harder. People tend to think that the more hours you put in, the better of a worker you are. We also often struggle with overreliance on caffeine, masking our sleepiness in the workplace and making it harder to see when and how poor sleep is affecting us in our day-to-day lives. And, caffeine, in high enough doses, can add to distractibility. Thus, dedication certainly doesn’t equate to efficiency and productivity.
We see that a colleague has replied to a team email at 2 a.m. or is frequently getting into the office at 7 a.m., large coffee in hand, and our first instinct is praise her. “Wow, she must be working really hard!” or “She’s so diligent!” And that is our biggest issue right there. In the recent Philips survey, nearly 1 in 3 Americans (30 percent) say they agree that sending late night work emails, when everyone else is sleeping, shows you care more about your job. We – particularly in the U.S. - do not perceive the impacts of sleeplessness as we should. Especially in the workplace, we should be encouraging our teams to strike an appropriate work/life balance and to make sleep a priority.
According to that same survey, 87 percent of Japanese adults (74 percent globally) say good sleep is the key to a happy marriage, making it clear that sleep plays a role in personal relationships in general. Whether your bed partner keeps you up with his or her snoring all night, or your wake-up schedules don’t align perfectly, sleep certainly plays a role in your relationship. A question I often get from people looking to build better sleep habits is whether or not sticking to a sleep schedule with their partner will improve their relationship.
While sticking to a schedule is important if you’re having trouble sleeping, I certainly do not advocate for being rigid in your relationship with your bed partner. One of my best memories is when my wife and I were early in our relationship and when we just could not fall asleep one night, we instead spent the night leisurely watching movies. If we had been sticking to a sleep schedule, we might not have had that experience. Building healthy sleep habits alongside your partner is important, but it’s also key to be flexible with these habits.
Finally, take a look at the amount of sleep you’re getting versus what your body actually needs. According to the Philips survey, ninety-five percent of adults, globally, have experienced a bad night’s sleep, and as we head into World Sleep Day, being aware of the strains that a lack of sleep may put on your workplace productivity or your relationships is tremendously important. Sixty-eight percent of global adults agree that they would have a better quality of life if they got more sleep each night. By finding ways to integrate healthy sleep patterns into the mix wherever possible, we can re-focus on sleep as a key pillar in our overall health.
About the Survey
This survey was conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of Philips from February 15-17, 2017 among 2,055 adults ages 18 and older in the U.S., among 1,055 adults ages 18 and older in France, among 1,016 adults ages 18 and older in Germany, among 1,021 adults ages 18 and older in the Netherlands, and among 1,314 adults ages 18 and older in Japan. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact Meredith Amoroso at email@example.com.