When I left my company last year and they held a little going-away celebration, the whole thing turned into a bit of a roast. And our chief operating officer shared a story I wasn't sure he remembered.  

It was from a few years before, when my wife and I were brand new parents, going through the sleep-deprived stage that I think most new moms and dads experience.

After one especially rough night, I came into work for a key meeting, only to realize I was so incredibly exhausted that I could hardly stay awake -- never mind focused and productive.

At one point I referred to our CEO by his brother's name. At another point I had trouble doing very simple math in my head. I simply couldn't focus when a colleague started to explain something to the group that she and I had been working on for days.

"Okay, that's it," I said, standing up in mid-sentence and walking toward the door. "I slept 45 minutes last night and it turns out that's not enough."

29 percent

Maybe you've been there, trying to focus and stay productive at work on way too little sleep. Now, a new study says it can quantify exactly how much less productive you are at work when you don't get enough shut-eye.

Here's the breakdown, as introduced last year at an American Academy of Sleep Medicine conference.

  • Using people who get a fairly healthy seven to eight hours of sleep per night as a baseline, the researchers calculated that cutting down to five or six hours of sleep a night drops your productivity by 19 percent loss at work the next day.
  • Get under five hours of sleep, the study suggests, and you undermine your productivity at work by 29 percent.

"Many people believe that in order to get more done, they need to sacrifice sleep. [Q]uite to the contrary, poor sleep is associated with lower productivity," the study's senior author, Michael Grandner an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, said in a statement accompanying the study

All of which is great, of course, but it's one thing to know you should get more sleep, and another thing to actually be able to achieve it.

9 ways around it

So for readers with newborns -- or really anyone who has to go to work without enough sleep, here are the nine things I discovered during my most sleep-deprived days that can help you get through a workday with some semblance of productivity, even when you've had almost no sleep:

  1. Set your alarm for the last possible minute; every second of sleep counts when you're this sleep-deprived.
  2. Eat breakfast. Especially a breakfast high in grains and proteins, with little sugar.
  3. Drink four cups of coffee. Heck, even five.
  4. Get outside, and get natural light as soon as possible.
  5. Find some time to exercise -- even just a token amount.
  6. The earliest part of your day will be the part when you have the least effects of sleep deprivation. So tackle the hardest things on your agenda first.
  7. Skip meetings. I should have on that 45 minutes of sleep day -- although it did make for a pretty decent story later.
  8. See if you can scrounge and somehow take a 30-minute nap during the day.
  9. Last but not least: This whole thing is a one-day solution only. Be sure you get your seven to eight hour minimum of sleep the next day.
Published on: Jun 16, 2019
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