Sleep & work performance

You've probably experienced it. Those days where you doubt you're going to make it through the day after a bad night. Sleep deprivation seriously affects the quality, effectiveness and creativity of your work. And when you are in charge, your colleagues' lack of sleep can make sure that nothing at all comes of your well-intentioned ideas. Also, people who are structurally sleep deprived are more difficult to manage. It is then difficult to create involvement and focus.

A workday requires a lot of energy from your body and brain, and a good night's sleep is the only way to provide you with that energy. Just think what an average workday requires of you:

  • You need to be able to maintain focus, solve problems, make decisions and remember important information.
  • You must collaborate with colleagues and consider different personalities.
  • You need to perform at client calls or meetings.
  • You also need to be able to perform physically at times.

For all of these skills, sleep is essential. Not only in quantity but certainly quality. Simply put the better you sleep the better and happier you can perform your job.

You yourself probably won't notice the difference between 6 or 8 hours of sleep but your brain most certainly will!

Sleep deprivation among the population is common. Almost ⅓ of the Dutch population does not sleep enough for optimal physical as well as physical health. For this reason, sleep deprivation has also been officially labeled a health problem for a number of years.

The definition insomnia is described as: poor sleep in and/or through at least three times a week accompanied by worse daytime functioning.

The first step to solving a problem is understanding what you are dealing with. Using . examples, we'll show you how sleep affects your workday:

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Cognitive skills

Cognition is the ability to plan, learn, reason and solve problems. Every time you find yourself in a situation that is new to you, your cognition goes to work for you. One of the most commonly used cognitive skill is the ability to keep your attention on something. When you are rested you notice that your focus is often better than when you have slept badly. Your attention then often goes in all directions and focusing on your work proves to be very difficult. You probably recognize this and get your phone out faster or your thoughts simply wander off more often. Towards your colleagues it can seem as if you are not interested or not there with your head. While this is exactly not your intention.


Problem solving ability

Sleep deprivation prevents your rational brain from functioning properly. This makes it a lot more likely to make poor choices. This can make it harder to set realistic goals, plan well and assess potential risks. When your work becomes more complex and when your choices affect the work of your colleagues, sufficient sleep is necessary to take all these factors into account and make the right choices.

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Your REM sleep is the phase of sleep where your brain is most active and you can dream vividly, for example. This phase is apparently essential for your daily dose of creativity. You can almost put it this way that people come up with all kinds of creative solutions to their daily problems in their sleep. So if you want to burst with creativity during the day, at least make sure you get enough sleep!


Without the necessary sleep, your mood is often not too good. People with sleep deprivation are many times more prone to fluctuations in their mood and even depressive feelings. This can cause serious mental problems in the long run. At work, this can manifest itself in a snarl toward your colleague or an anger outburst over basically nothing at all. After a good night's sleep, you are much better able to react appropriately to different situations. You're much more likely to give colleagues the benefit of the doubt instead of freaking out about things. This is much better for the work atmosphere in the long run.


Sleep deprivation affects your ability to recognize what other people may be feeling or going through. Thus, it makes you less empathetic. Emotional literacy is an important skill at work. If you continue to exhibit more frequent non-socially desirable behaviors in the workplace, it will not benefit interpersonal relationships with your colleagues and ultimately your job satisfaction. When you do not recognize signals from people around you quickly enough, it becomes more difficult for you to chair a meeting, lead your team or close an important deal. Think about performance reviews that can go completely wrong if you do not recognize the right signals in time.

Physical influence

Poor sleep has quite an impact on your body, especially after several nights in a row. You start getting sleep at times when you should actually be fully engaged in your work. For example, when you also have to physically work with heavy machinery, your judgment and responsiveness must be on top of the game to avoid accidents. Serious sleep deprivation has the same effect on our bodies as alcohol. Research shows that when people had not slept for 17 hours, reaction ability is equivalent to a blood alcohol percentage of 0.05%. After 24 hours, this percentage is even 0.1% which is equivalent to being drunk. So sleep deprivation affects your performance during the day on many different levels.

So how do you sleep better?

Now that you have a better understanding of how sleep can potentially affect your work performance, we offer some tips in how to sleep more efficiently.

  • RESPECT your sleep. It's more than just a few hours of recovery. It is a vital part of your health. Just as important as nutrition and physical exercise.
  • Create an ideal sleeping environment. A nice bed, dark room and cool room(18 degrees celcius seems to be the ideal temperature) provide the right conditions.
  • Make a habit of the times you go to bed and wake up again.
  • Therefore, before bedtime, choose activities that calm your brain. Your phone, TV or laptop certainly don't do that. Reading, showering or taking a bath do. You can also opt for some relaxation exercises or a short walk outside.
  • Alcohol has a negative effect on your sleep quality. Even that one glass a day.
  • Stop drinking coffee (caffeine) in time. Caffeine takes about 8 hours to work fully. So after 2 p.m. preferably no more coffee.
  • Keep in mind the number of hours you want to sleep. When doing so, also allow for 15 minutes in sleep time. 7-9 hours is recommended for adults. If you exercise intensively then you are really towards 9 hours.
  • When you really can't sleep just get out of bed for 15 minutes and do something else. When you stay awake in bed the brain does not associate the bed with anything relaxing. If this happens often enough it will become increasingly difficult to find relaxation in bed.

Sleeping better doesn't have to be difficult. See if you can start applying some of these tips and notice the difference in energy! Real sleep problems are often not well recognized and often remain untreated for this reason. Should you suffer from this structurally, it can't hurt to discuss this with your doctor. Sleep apnea is often attributed to obesity. This can play a role, but obesity is never the only reason for sleep problems. Besides a varied diet and sufficient exercise, sleeping better is also important for your health. People have to go to bed sometime anyway. Our advice is to set this up as well as possible for better performance at work but especially for your own state of mind!

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