A Startling New Study Says This Is How Much Sleep You Can Lose Before You Become Less Productive

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

You push through, right?

Because that’s what you’re supposed to do.

You had a late night. Or you simply didn’t sleep very well. 

It’s alright. It’s just a few more hours’ work. You can make up for it at the weekend.

So often, we believe in our own durability. Yet an eye-opening new study suggests we’re not as strong as we think.

They wanted to ask a simple question. If you lose just a little sleep, do you become less productive?

One sentence offers a painful summation: 

Waking 19 minutes earlier and sleeping 16 minutes less were associated with one additional point on the cognitive interference scale the next day.

You really don’t want to experience cognitive interference at work, if you can help it.

You don’t think quite straight. You become more distracted. You know it’s happening, but you really can’t prevent it.

You just think you can.

You become more stressed as a result.

Additionally moving in this research was that the 130 subjects worked in IT, a job in which a particular sort of focus is required.

To think that a mere 16 minutes less sleep might affect that focus is quite bracing.

The USF researchers offered another interesting kink: 

The temporal associations of nightly sleep duration and sleep quality with the following day’s cognitive interference were significant on work days, but not on non-work days.

So losing a little sleep and playing golf the next day might be fine. Going to work the next day, however, isn’t.

Recently, I wrote about an NYU study which attempted to grapple with some of the sleep myths that have been peddled over the years.

The most popular one, perhaps, was that humans only need 5 hours’ sleep.

The science suggests humans actually need between 7 and 10 hours. A regular sleep pattern helps, too.

And no, it really doesn’t help to insist you’ll catch up on your sleep at the weekend.

Sleep is one of those peculiar items of human life.

I have extremely successful friends who don’t know what a full night’s sleep feels like. They wake constantly during the night — for just 30 seconds, they say — and believe it’s normal. For them, at least.

Personally, I find good sleep crucial to (even vague) mental functioning.

I’m heartened that science seems to support that mentality.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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