What Happens to Your Career When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep

Waking up from a poor night’s sleep and hitting the snooze button, swearing to myself that I’ll go to bed earlier the next night is a really bad habit of mine. I vow to get 8 hours, yet almost every night when the time comes to hit the hay, I’m telling myself “just one more post” or “just one more episode.”

And then I regret it the next day when I’m groggy and can’t focus.

It’s a vicious cycle most of us are stuck in.

Of course, a mid-day nap would be great, if only you had time.

“I’m too busy” we often tell ourselves. But it’s time to make the time for more sleep, because a lack of quality sleep will do more than make you feel sluggish. It’ll seriously damage your health, happiness and your career.

Here’s what happens to your career when you don’t get enough sleep:


1. More Sick Days

More sick days are a result of getting too much or too little sleep. Ideally, you should be getting seven to nine hours of restful sleep every night. However, those who sleep more than 10 hours or less than five are more likely to stay home sick for 4.6 to 8.9 more days.

After stress and other factors are removed, this link between proper sleep time and illness remains.

2. Missed Creativity

Creative ideas and problem-solving result from a time of incubation. It’s important to not disturb your REM cycles, because mental fogginess during the day will disrupt that period of necessary development and impede your innovation.

3. Productivity Plummets

The less quality sleep you have, the less productive you are. Employees who sleep six hours or less are significantly less productive, affecting reaction time and cognitive performance.

4. Costs Your Employer and the Economy

That loss of productivity and other important skillsets due to a lack of sleep is costing the U.S. economy up to $411 billion per year. Increasing sleeping hours from six to seven hours nightly could boost the economy by $226.4 billion.

5. Diminished Confidence

Is your confidence lacking due to sleep deprivation?

Less than six hours of sleep is closely linked to decreased levels of self-esteem and optimism. Comparatively, seven or eight hours of adequate sleep is proven to control depressive symptoms.

6. Crabby Attitude

Sleep deprivation shortens your fuse and is linked to greater emotional reactivity, depression and less empathy.

If you’re experiencing sleep loss, limit work on frustrating tasks and social interaction until you get back on a proper sleep schedule. Repeated instances of irritability could give you bad marks on a job review, citing – or worse.

7. Lessened Ability to Assess Risks

Sleep loss will affect your ability to make decisions, lessening your ability to assess risks accurately. When you’re working and sleep deprived, there’s less activity in the area of the brain that weighs negative outcomes and increased activity in the area of the brain that analyzes positive outcomes.

You’re more likely to focus on short-term and not long-term consequences, increasing your willingness to accept risk.

8. Inhibited Memory

A primary function of sleep is that it consolidates long-term memory by strengthening particular neural connections and getting rid of unimportant ones. All the neural connections made throughout the day aren’t worth saving, and sleep is when the brain determines which ones are necessary.

The neurons activated when learning a new task are activated again during non-rapid eye movement sleep, integrating the information into long-term memory.

When you get proper sleep the night after learning multiple tasks, you’re more likely to remember that information accurately. Without a proper night’s sleep, mental fogginess affects your ability to recall what you’ve learned and will reflect in your job performance.

9. Increased Risk of Injury

While certain jobs come with obvious risks, sleep deprivation increases the likelihood of work-related accidents. Lack of sleep leads to mental fogginess, slowed reaction time and dizziness, among other symptoms, increasing the probability of injuries at work.

In fact, workers with sleep problems are 1.62 times more at risk for injury on the job than those without sleep problems, and 13 percent of work injuries are linked with problems sleeping.

How to Get Better Sleep and Stay on Track

You need proper sleep to function effectively at work and continue to excel on your career path. Fortunately, there are proven ways to get better sleep and stay on track:

1. Form a Bedtime Ritual

When your mind is wound up on stress, it’s going to be difficult to drift off to sleep. A bedtime ritual prepares your mind and body for rest.

It sounds hokey, but many successful people in business have bedtime rituals that work. They use meditative activities, like reading a book or taking a walk. Find what works for you and make it a habit to help prepare your mind for sleep.

2. Track Your Sleep

Use a FitBit or other tracker to track your sleep. You wouldn’t be the first to do so – many have already given it a shot and had a lot of success.

Once you know your sleep times, take steps to increase your hours and improve your sleep quality.

3. Limit Technology Before Bed

Reading before bed is a great bedtime ritual, but if you read from a light-emitting device, your sleep is suffering. Your REM phase is shorter, and it takes longer for you to go to sleep and wake up.

Short-wave blue light emitted from your tablet limits the production of melatonin, which begins its release in the evening. Those who read from a tablet before bed will be wide awake and have problems getting to sleep and staying asleep.

Limit technology an hour before bed, and ideally use the bedroom for sleeping only.

4. Use Ambient Lighting in the Evening

The sun sets and rises daily, and the human body must keep its circadian rhythm intact by following the cycles of light and dark.

A few hours before bed, begin cutting down on bright light sources. Use ambient light an hour or two before bed to adjust your eyes and prepare your body and mind for sleep.

5. Lower the Temperature

Your internal body temperature also regulates your body clock. Just as the sun sets and your body needs darkness to fall asleep, your body temperature is also adjusting. Help your body acclimate by lowering the temperature in the room between 60 to 67 degrees for sleep-inducing conditions.

Cool, dark and comfortable bedrooms are key. Darkness signals melatonin production, and melatonin cues your body clock that it’s time for bed.

6. Block Out Bright Street Light

Excessive streetlight keeps everyone awake in this 24/7 world of technology and electricity. If you live in a bigger city, you can probably relate.

City-dwellers report dissatisfaction with sleep quality and fatigue at higher rates and are 6 percent more likely to get only 6 hours of sleep.

Blackout curtains or thicker fabric curtains will help block bright streetlight. You can also try turning your bed away from brightly lit windows.

7. Don’t Oversleep

You may try to “catch up” on sleep whenever possible, but oversleeping only worsens your quality of sleep. Getting too much sleep leads to an increase in anxiety and depression, affecting your ability to do your job.

Instead, set your body clock by waking up at the same time every day. This conditions your body to feel tired earlier and keep your circadian rhythm — and career — on track.

Don’t let your career suffer by letting sleep problems get out of hand. Getting restful sleep isn’t something nice you used do. It’s something your mind and body needs to be healthy and successful in life.


What are your bedtime rituals and tips to get a restful sleep? Keep the conversation going: Leave a comment and subscribe to Punched Clocks!

The following two tabs change content below.
Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comment *