If your career depends on focus and productivity, it’s possible your lack of sleep is holding you back professionally. That’s because sleep and productivity are directly intertwined. You can’t expect to be productive without getting enough quantity or quality sleep on a consistent basis. Women professionals are at particular risk of suffering from sleep problems.
Sleep disturbances are intrinsic to women throughout their life cycle, and this is often the result of their multitasking role. Working women are frequently the caregivers for their families and/or parents at the same time they’re dedicating themselves to their careers.
Poor sleep can affect memory, concentration and clarity of thought, and it can cause writers block and impact productivity and success. It’s one of the biggest factors in job burnout.
Many organizations have started to view sleep deprivation as a productivity killer and employee health issue. To prevent lack of sleep from impacting their bottom line, they’re encouraging their workers to get a good night’s sleep. For example, Goldman Sachs has brought in sleep experts, while Johnson and Johnson offers employees a digital health coaching program that promotes good sleep habits with an online sleep diary and relaxation videos for mobile devices. Google hosts “sleeposium” events.
One Harvard research study found that for the average worker, insomnia leads to the loss of 11.3 days’ worth of productivity each calendar year. That’s the equivalent of $2,280. This results in a total annual cost of sleep deprivation to the U.S. economy of more than $63 billion, in the form of absenteeism and presenteeism (when employees are present at work physically but not really mentally focused).
Women’s Need for Sleep
So how much sleep do you really need? The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society have determined that adults require at least seven hours of sleep per day to promote optimal mental and physical health. Getting less than seven hours of sleep has been linked to adverse health outcomes, including obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, irritability, personality changes, mood disorders such as anxiety and depression, and safety issues related to drowsy driving and injuries.
According to a study of 71,000 nurses, women who slept less than five hours a night had a 45 percent greater risk of developing heart disease than those who slept eight hours nightly. Sleeping less than five hours also increases risk of developing diabetes and is associated with a 35 percent increased risk of drowsy driving.
A poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation in 2007 found that women are more likely than men to experience sleep disorders. Women are packing their own briefcase at the same time they’re getting their kids’ backpacks ready for school the next day; they’re often the last ones in the house to go to bed.
Corporate women often end up commuting two or more hours per day, working long hours at the office but then equally hard at home. I call this having to cope in a world of “sleep masochism.” The result: More than one-third of working women are extremely sleep deprived, barely managing six hours of sleep a night.
[See: 8 Steps to Fall Asleep Fast.]
Why Do Women Sleep Poorly?
Several factors that may affect a woman’s quantity and quality of sleep include:
— Sex hormones. Women’s body clock causes them to fall asleep and wake up earlier than men. It’s like being shifted to a more easterly time zone. This also explains why women are more likely to wake up in the early hours of the morning and why shift work is harder on women’s health than on men’s health.
— Pregnancy. Being pregnant can cause sleep disturbances due to excess weight, fluid retention and the position of the fetus.
— Post-partum period. As parents of newborns know, sleep deprivation is common after the baby is born. Post-partum depression can also impact sleep.
— Menopause. Hot flashes can interrupt sleep. These frequent awakenings can cause fatigue the next day.
— Bed partner disturbances. If your bed partner moves around or snores, your sleep is sure to suffer.
— Restless leg syndrome. This is an urge to move the legs (also described as an uncomfortable sensation, creepy-crawlies, twitching/jerking, pain or the inability to get comfortable). These symptoms mainly occur at night and can cause daytime sleepiness.
— Fibromyalgia and arthritis. Between 75 and 90 percent of those with fibromyalgia are women. Both conditions can make it difficult to get comfortable during sleep.
— Obstructive sleep apnea. While this nighttime breathing disorder is more common in men overall, the incidence in women after menopause is the same as men. A person with the disorder has pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while sleeping. The pauses can occur 30 or more times per hour. Daytime sleepiness is a common problem in people with sleep apnea.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
To improve your sleep, try these tips:
— Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This keeps your biological clock in sync. You can’t make up for a week of skimpy sleep by sleeping in on the weekend.
— Establish a nighttime routine for yourself to help your body settle down for the night. Choose relaxing activities, such as reading a book (not related to work) or taking a warm bath.
— Sleep in a cool, quiet, dark room, on a comfortable, supportive mattress.
— Keep electronics out of the bedroom — including TVs, laptops and smartphones. Try to get away from screens an hour or two before bed.
— Exercise regularly.
— Avoid caffeine and alcohol late in the day — they can interfere with sleep.
— If you’re stressed while you try to get to sleep, make a list of all the things you need to do, then give yourself permission to relax.
— Do some light stretching, deep breathing, yoga or meditation to help your body and your mind transition to sleep.
— Getting a full night’s sleep isn’t a luxury. It’s important for you and for everyone who depends on you that you’re well-rested.
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Women Shouldn’t Let Sleep Disorders Impact Their Career originally appeared on usnews.com