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Guest Column: Sleep and Knowledge Work

By on November 15, 20112 Comments
smartphone in bed

Just one more text...

If you’re staying up late reading and/or writing e-mail, doing work, reading online forums and news, catching up on social networks – and then find yourself sleep-deprived the next day, you’re not alone.

Sleep deficiency is a major problem for knowledge workers who, due to increased mobility, are now more likely then ever to continue their work from home after leaving the office.  Even setting aside the pressure (some would even say the necessity) of answering e-mail messages or working on projects late into the night, the temptation of late-night recreational Internet and technology use is omnipresent.

Such behavior is considered poor sleep hygiene, a term that refers to one’s habits and practices at bedtime as well as environmental factors that may influence the length and quality of one’s sleep.

Consider the following statistics from the National Sleep Foundation’s 2011 “Sleep in America” poll:

- 39% of Americans bring their mobile phone into bed with them and end up using it in the hour before they go to sleep.  The number is even higher for younger Americans, 67% of 19-29 year olds.  21% of Americans end up texting during this time.

- Those individuals that end up texting in the hour before sleep are more likely to report bad sleep and not feeling refreshed.

- 1 in 10 Americans is woken up by mobile phone alerts from texts, calls, and e-mail.  The number rises to nearly 1 in 5 for 19-29 year olds.

- 36% of Americans use their laptop in bed before they go to sleep, and this group reports that it is less likely to get a good night’s sleep.

Why does this matter?  Surely we are able to deal with the loss of a little sleep in exchange for getting out that important e-mail or sending that last text of the day, right?

Unfortunately not, according to the UK-based Mental Health Foundation.  The organization’s 2011 “Sleep Matters” report notes that individuals who experience even mild sleep disorders are four times more likely to have relationship problems, three times more likely to lack concentration during their work day, three times more likely to struggle to accomplish tasks at work or during their day, and over twice as likely to suffer from energy deficiency.

Last week (in case you missed it due to being tired) was Drowsy Driving Prevention Week, a public awareness campaign by the National Sleep Foundation to highlight the issue of sleep safety.  To put the problem in perspective, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drowsy driving results in 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries and more than 100,000 accidents each year.  The National Sleep Foundation estimates that drowsy driving is involved in about one in six deadly crashes and one in eight crashes resulting in hospitalization.

Presuming you are not nodding off while reading this, consider how lack of sleep might be impacting your productivity and effectiveness.  Before going to sleep, lay off e-mail and texting, and maybe even try just turning all of your devices completely off.

Sweet dreams.


Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.  He can be reached at cburke@basex.com



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