Even though it's one of the most effective forms of self-care, sleep often gets put on the back burner. After all, there are families to take care of, deadlines to meet—and, let's be real, TV shows that won't just watch themselves.
While everyone stays up too late sometimes (and that’s totally okay), a new study shows just how losing even a few minutes of sleep at night can impact cognitive function and stress levels—making us more likely to be foggy, distracted, or off-task during the work week.
The study, conducted at the University of South Florida and published in the journal Sleep Heath, found simply going to bed 16 minutes later or waking up 19 minutes earlier than normal can have a major impact on cognitive function the following day. The temporal associations of sleep duration and quality showed to have an impact on the next day’s cognitive interference during the work week but not on off-days.
Not only was job performance impaired, but the authors of this study noted quality of life was also impaired as well. Stress levels rose on the days when participants weren’t receiving adequate sleep, and they were also more frustrated when they felt they couldn’t work efficiently during the work day. While there have been many studies on the effects of sleep on daily stressors and mental health, this is one the first studies to compare how nightly sleep impacted next-day cognitive function on work days and non-work days.
Interested in learning more about the health benefits of sleep?
Researchers surveyed and analyzed the sleep habits of 130 participants—all of which had at least one child—and how frequently they felt distracted or off-task during each day. For eight consecutive days, participants had to share multiple sleep characteristics—bedtimes and wake times, sleep quality, sleep duration, and sleep latency—and rank how much they felt they were experiencing impaired job performance the next day on a 1-4 scale. The researchers noted they took into account sociodemographic characteristics and work hours for this study.
The bottom line: Unfortunately some seasons of life are going to leave us more sleep-deprived than others, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive for the recommended 7-9 hours when possible. Even if it means changing your nightly (or morning) routine to ensure an earlier bedtime, the benefits of less stress and a more consistent sleep schedule can make a huge impact on not only job performance, but your risk for chronic diseases, your weight, and your immunity.