Productivity And Sleep: The Ultimate Guide

Sleep Well, Work Better!
Productivity And Sleep: The Ultimate Guide
Tom Greenspan
December 21, 2022

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Ever felt as if you just can’t muster the energy to get your tasks done in a typical workday? We’ve all been there.

The feeling of never-ending exhaustion can put a damper on your ability to perform your due diligence. This is neither healthy nor beneficial for your professional life, as simply soldiering on repeatedly without proper rest will take its toll on you eventually.

It’s common knowledge that sleep deprivation can ravage your health the longer it continues to happen. A lack of sleep can affect your ability to make logical decisions, in addition to your professional productivity. But simply saying this is not enough. This is a problem that will continue to fester unless you take action first. 

Read this productivity and sleep ultimate guide to gain a comprehensive understanding of the correlation between sleep and productivity. Find many tips for improving your sleep in easy ways!

The Correlation Between Sleep And Productivity

People born during or after the technological boom that began in 1975 are no strangers to long work hours. This period, known as the Third Industrial Revolution or the Digital Revolution, saw sweeping changes to the working habits of the average office worker.

For many, their average working day may last well beyond 8 hours, which can be quite exhausting. Even if your average number of working hours per day is seven or below, you will need good sleep to remain healthy. Work hours, long or short, need to be balanced with a consistent and deep sleeping habit.

You may have heard health and lifestyle experts regularly advise getting eight hours of shut eye for everyone. Depending on the kind of professional schedule you are required to follow, this may not always be possible. Of course, this will lead to unfortunate consequences for both your health and professional life.

How Sleep Works

The act of sleeping is quite a bit more complex than it would seem initially. To simplify it a little, it’s the body’s way of getting rid of toxic waste, repairing cells, restoring energy, and conserving energy. These processes occur in two modes that repeat over the duration of sleep: REM and NREM modes. 

1. REM Sleep

REM sleep, a.k.a Rapid Eye Movement sleep, is the mode where the brain is relatively more active. Brain waves are desynchronized and fast, accompanied by reduced muscle tone and suspended homeostasis. Lucid dreams also occur during this stage.

This sleep mode is when all the information presented to you during the waking hours is stored in the long-term memory. The information isn’t limited to things learned during the day, as it is when your brain processes emotional processing as well. As such, REM sleep becomes crucial to boost brain power for learning and memory.

2. NREM Sleep

NREM Sleep, known as Non-Rapid Eye Movement Sleep, is the mode where the brain slips into a deeper resting state. In this phase, brain waves slow down, and mental activity reduces to allow the body to recover its energy and repair damaged cells. Furthermore, this sleep mode strengthens the immune system, making it quite significant for combating illnesses.

REM and NREM sleep modes are part of a sleep cycle that occurs up to five times in a 7-hour long sleep. Each cycle lasts about 90 minutes and includes both REM and NREM sleep modes.

An interesting point to note about NREM sleep is that it can be further classified into three distinct stages that serve different roles. Over the course of stages 1 and 2, the brain activity begins to slow down, punctuated by short periods of elevated brain activity.

Stage 3 is when you experience true deep sleep, along with disjointed and typically nonsensical dreams. Noise or environmental activity won’t wake you up, and your body begins physical repairs when this happens. Your body reaches a state of complete calm, and your muscle tone, pulse, and breathing slow down.

Sleep Deprivation: How It Affects Your Productivity

If your sleep is interrupted at any point, the first and most obvious side-effect of this will be a lack of energy. You will have less energy to spare for the daily goings-on and be slow to act, directly hampering your ability to decide and solve issues.

These issues are further exacerbated in the event of complete sleep deprivation, where your body is unable to perform tasks as it usually would. It’s extremely important that your sleep isn’t interrupted during the eight hours of reprieve your body needs.

1. REM Sleep Deprivation

If your sleep is interrupted during the REM phase, your brain will increase the number of attempts to re-enter the sleep mode while asleep. This ‘recovery’ REM sleep phase lasts for a shorter duration than what would be normal, which can cascade into many problems. You may become more irritable and anxious and lose appetite.

2. NREM Sleep Deprivation

On the other hand, should you not receive proper deep sleep, your brain will not have cleared the body of toxic waste. Additionally, your body will not have healed fully, and your immune system may grow weaker as a result. This may increase the risk of psychological disorders and chronic diseases, such as dementia or cancer.

Inconsistent Sleep: How It Affects Your Sleep

Being able to fall asleep consistently is just as important as the number of hours you sleep. If sleep eludes you continuously, you may face a sharp decline in performance over the week. As your sleep schedule grows worse, so do your cognitive abilities.

Our bodies follow a day-night cycle, known as circadian rhythm, which dictates when we fall asleep, keeping our internal biology on the right track. These rhythms signal our brains to release melatonin during the evening to help us fall asleep fast by the time the night rolls around.

Without a regular sleep cycle, these rhythms get disturbed, causing melatonin to be released at the wrong time. And this has a direct effect on the way the body functions. 

This can be observed in night shift workers who have to cycle between day and night shifts. Over time, the alternating schedules can reduce their focus and lead to errors that, at best, have minor consequences. At worst, this may lead to incidents like drowsy driving accidents.

Where Sleep Issues Arise

Sleep deprivation and inconsistent sleep aren’t solely caused by working habits. Many of us face difficulty sleeping due to different issues associated with physical or mental health. These include:

  • Anxiety
  • Sleep disorders like insomnia
  • Side effects from medication
  • Trauma, recent or old
  • Mental health issues
  • Genetics
  • Age

The correlation between sleep and mental health goes both ways in that poor sleep can cause mental health issues. For instance, poor sleep can make what is usually a manageable amount of stress into an insurmountable wall. 

Not all of these problems have an easy way to stop insomnia, but each of these can be mitigated to some extent. Consult your doctor to receive a diagnosis and potential options for such sleeping problem solutions. The doctor may conduct a physical exam to find signs of medical problems, along with a review of your sleep habits.

Additionally, if they can’t pinpoint a reason for your sleep disorder, the doctor may perform a sleep study. This will have you spend a night at a sleep center where professionals will monitor body activities as you sleep. Brain waves, breathing patterns, heart rate, NREM and REM mode duration, and body movements are among these activities.

The Benefits Of A Well-Rested Body And Mind

Most adults require 7-9 hours of good, deep sleep every day to remain healthy both physically and psychologically. But the refreshed feeling on waking up isn’t the only benefit to a well-rested body and mind.

Maintaining healthy sleeping habits can lead to a host of benefits that include the following:

  • Resist sicknesses better
  • Reduce the risk of health issues like diabetes and heart disease
  • Decrease overall stress levels
  • Have a clear, focused mind
  • Remain in an agreeable mood

6 Expert Tips To Get Sleep Better

1. Follow A Sleep Schedule

Everyone has a different sleep schedule that suits them the best. Some people are more productive during the night, while others are early risers who like to get things done early in the day. 

Depending on your preferences, consider creating a consistent sleep schedule that fits your lifestyle. No matter when you like going to bed, ensure that you are getting enough shut-eye to be well-rested and ready for the next day. Following this schedule religiously will help you find the slumber you need consistently.

Another important thing to note is that you don’t necessarily have to hit the 7-9 hour mark for your sleep. If you feel well-rested after having slept for 6 hours, that is good enough for you, and vice versa.

2. Create A Bedtime Routine

A calming bedtime routine can help you fall asleep fast and naturally conquer sleep problems. This involves a series of activities that you perform every day in the same order for up to an hour. The goal here is to condition your mind into associating the activities with sleep preparation. And by the end of these activities, you will find yourself getting drowsy.

Calming activities work best in a bedtime ritual, as they don’t stimulate your brain much while you perform them. Draw a warm bath, have a cup of bedtime tea, or plan out your next day. It may also help to jot down your plans on paper, as it can help you retain the right informational materials.

3. Keep Distracting Elements Out Of The Bedroom

It’s always grating when you’re about to fall asleep, and the phone rings with a notification. We’ve all been there before, and it always manages to deter sleep!

For those who receive important calls frequently, it’s not always possible to leave the phone in another room. So, consider turning the internet off for the duration of your sleep and keep the device in vibration mode. You needn’t be disturbed by notifications unless it is of extreme importance.

Lastly, the brain associates the bedroom with sleep, and it takes simple effort to maintain this association as much as possible. Your bedroom is meant to be quiet and calming, and it shouldn’t contain any distracting elements. This includes work or hobby-related implements, TV, or a computer. All you need from your bed is a restful and relaxing sleep.

4. Power Naps

Power naps are short bursts of sleep that can help boost brain power. These are refreshing precisely because they are so short, allowing your body to benefit from the brief REM sleep. And since they end before you enter deep sleep, you won’t wake up with low energy and feel groggy.

Power naps can be important because long hours of work without a break can be quite exhausting. Power naps allow your body the brief reprieve it so desperately needs by the time the clock strikes 3 in the afternoon.

Find yourself a nice couch in the lounge of your office and take a few minutes off. You will wake up feeling alert and ready to take on the rest of the day, netting you positive results.

5. Establish A Workout Routine

Regular exercise can serve as the energizing activity of the day, allowing you to make use of your muscular and nervous systems to the fullest. By performing a workout routine in the morning, you will grow tired by the end of the day. As a result, you will have an easier time maintaining a sleep schedule once the night rolls around.

Of course, there are a plethora of benefits associated with exercising beyond great sleep, so it’s good for you regardless.

6. Maintain A Healthy Diet

Natural ways to solve insomnia have no ill effects and are easy remedies to boot, with a healthy diet being prominent among them. A good diet can help you improve sleep quality, only requiring you to make the simple effort of adding veggies to your meals. 

Cutting down on junk food can help maintain your energy levels throughout the day and help maintain a good sleep cycle as well. You may avoid alcohol, caffeine, fats, carbs, and sugary drinks in your diet to mitigate their ill effects on the digestive system.


Not getting enough sleep makes you unhealthy and unproductive, but that’s no secret to anyone. What is often overlooked, though, is the long-term consequences of not sleeping well or long enough.

In the modern age, getting a good night’s sleep can be a bit of a myth for certain people. With sleep evading them endlessly, it’s easy to see why they face difficulty keeping up with the mundane goings-on of their lives. Curing insomnia naturally is not a straightforward prospect, lacking magical or instant results.

These issues can typically be prevented with simple lifestyle changes and healthy sleep habits like maintaining a sleep schedule and a bedtime routine. But oftentimes, issues with sleep require the eye of a medical professional. An endlessly elusive sleep is a worrying sign, after all.