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Why Skipping Sleep to Work on My Startup Was the Worst Mistake I Ever Made

Updated on May 21, 2020
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Felix is the founder of Society of Speed, an automotive journal covering the unique lifestyle of supercar owners.

Staying up late every night is a killer, not only of productivity, relationships, and health but also quite literally. So the next time you say you can sleep when you're dead, you should be aware that you're actually bringing that day forward in your life.

No matter what the cause is, there is no way of getting used to lack of sleep as it has a terrible effect on all of us, regardless of age or health. Lack of sleep can negatively affect your life in so many different ways, from damaging your judgment and mood, to your overall safety and work performance. Many studies have shown that excessive sleepiness can hinder clear thought, cause mood problems like depression or anger, and wreak havoc on relationships both in and outside of work.

So any short-term gains in productivity at work achieved from skipping sleep for work are quickly taken over by detrimental effects of sleep deprivation for many days to come. The negative effects can be so great that drunk people have the ability to outperform people who skip sleep. The following are some examples of why skipping sleep can be the worst business mistake you can make.

Skipping Sleep Affects Clear Thought

Good sleep helps us think clearly so we can remember information, and make the right decisions. When we don't get enough good quality sleep, it impairs the executive function of our brains, which is an ability we need to function in all realms of daily life.

Scientists who measure sleepiness found that skipping sleep reduces alertness and concentration. It's much more challenging to pay attention and focus, which means it's much easier to get confused. Sleepiness also impairs your judgement as well as your ability to perform almost any task which requires complex thought processes or logical reasoning. Making even the most basic of decisions becomes much more difficult because your thought isn't clear enough to assess situations so that you can choose the correct behaviour.

Skipping Sleep Affects Performance & Productivity

To put it bluntly, insufficient sleep is the number 1 killer of productivity and performance. Sleep deprivation devastates all of us, physically, mentally, and emotionally. We have difficulty focusing and learning throughout the day, and ultimately, anything we do learn, we don't remember very well. We can see these effects of sleep deprivation play out among any sleep-deprived staff at your workplace.

Managers and work colleagues commonly view irritability, bad decision making, or the lack of motivation or focus as being directly related to poor training, the work environment, or merely being an uncommitted employee. But the answer could actually be much more straightforward than that. It could simply be a lack of sleep. The longer hours that we spend working, the more tired we become, causing us to become much more prone to procrastination, errors, or sluggishness which blocks creativity and concentration.

Skipping Sleep Affects Workplace Relationships

Moodiness, lack of focus, and frayed nerves are all directly associated with a deficit in sleep, which can place big strains on key relationships in the workplace. Poor quality or amounts of sleep can prove challenging in almost any organizational environment where teamwork and communication are essential, because they are vital to professional success, playing a massive role in corporate environments.

A significant amount of respondents in sleep-related surveys said that many interpersonal aspects of their role became especially difficult anytime they were tired. An overwhelming percentage of people surveyed said they feel more irritable, and over half reported higher levels of anxiety, stress, and frustration. Additionally, they also had feelings of withdrawal, a lack of optimism about the future, further supporting the strong link between sleep and workplace relationships.

Skipping Sleep Affects Mood & Mental Health

Lack of sleep can significantly alter your mood, causing irritability and even anger. Poor sleep can also lessen your ability to cope with levels of stress. Sleep-deprived people are also noticeably less likely than people who get the required amounts of sleep to exercise often, eat well, and engage in leisure activities.

Lack of sleep can also have a profound impact on your general mental health. Some of the more dramatic psychological effects of reduced sleep, which would also be hugely detrimental at work include things like memory loss, paranoia, and hallucinations.

Skipping Sleep Affects Physical Health

There have been too many studies to mention that have proven that people who get enough quality sleep each night will on average live much longer and healthier lives. Sleep deprivation is directly linked to some very serious health problems, such as stroke, heart attack, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. That's because poor sleep makes the body overproduce the stress-causing hormone cortisol, which causes a variety of negative effects on physical health. This hormone can wreak havoc on the immune system, while also breaking down collagen in the skin. This is the protein which helps keep skin looking smooth and elastic, so reduced levels can ultimately make people look much older than they are. Not getting enough sleep also reduces testosterone levels in men and lowers their sperm count.

Depriving your body of quality sleep compromises the ability of your body to control food intake and metabolize carbohydrates. Plus, when you sleep less, you will also likely eat more, which means your body will have increased difficulty with burning calories that are consumed. Sleep deprivation causes hunger because it increases the appetite-stimulating hormone called ghrelin, and also makes it much more difficult to feel full because levels of the satiety-inducing hormone called leptin are also reduced. Therefore people who sleep less are more likely to become obese than people who sleep an average of 7 to 9 hours each night.

Skipping Sleep Affects Personal Relationships

Sleep deprivation can be a strong factor in marital conflict. People with inadequate sleep often report having much more frequent conflicts, with less understanding of their partner's emotions, and much poorer conflict resolution.

Lack of sleep may also increase marital aggression, which can be a massive problem within relationships. Studies on married couples have confirmed links between reduced sleep and aggressive behaviour. When problematic sleep reduces self-control, which it will often do, couples seem to suffer from increased aggression in their marriage.

Skipping Sleep Affects Reaction Times

Sleepiness reduces reaction times, which can be a huge problem when doing any work which relies on quick responses like driving or operating machinery. You don't even need to fall asleep while driving for it to be dangerous, just feeling drowsy alone can be almost as dangerous as driving while drunk. It's well known that a large number of crashes that are attended to by police every year are caused by driver fatigue, and many people have experienced nodding off while driving.

Because sleep needs will vary between individuals, most experts suggest that the best way for people to gauge whether they are getting enough sleep is by how they feel. For example, you should never feel sleepy just after you wake up. You should feel energetic throughout each day, slowly winding down the closer you get to your usual bedtime. Another thing you can do is assess your quality of life through your day-to-day abilities.

Ask yourself if your levels of cognitive performance are where you'd like them to be. If you're continually having conflicts with work colleagues or even worse, your boss, because of things like your memory, attention span, or concentration in general, it's time to make some changes in your life. Starting with ensuring you never skip sleep to work again.

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