Bad sleep affects our lives in a number of ways. Mentally, our moods, attitudes, and emotions are heavily influenced by how we’ve slept the night before. Physically, our concentration levels and reaction times can take a hit from a poor night’s rest. The impact of this can be felt in many aspects of our lives, one of which is your profession. To further explore the relationship between sleep and work, we surveyed 2,000 UK residents about a variety of their sleeping habits and their well-being at work. We also asked a series of sleep experts the best sleeping habits to help you get a good night’s sleep.
Happy sleepers are happy workers
Initially, those surveyed were asked to rate their sleep on a scale of one to ten (one being very poor and 10 very good). Respondents were then asked a series of questions about their sleeping habits, attitudes, and career.
According to our research, better sleepers are more positive morning people. We asked respondents to tell us if they generally felt positive or negative when they wake up. Of all the people who responded with positive, 49% rated their sleep between eight and ten (ten being perfect). In contrast, just 3% rated their sleep between one and three. To flesh out the trend, we looked at those who said they feel negative when they wake. Just 13% rated their sleep eight or above, 36 percentage points lower than positive morning people. A third of those who feel negative in the morning rated their sleep at three or below, 30 percentage points higher than positive morning folk.
That positive attitude is carried into the working day. When asked to rate their motivation at work out of ten, the same trend appeared. Of all those that rated their motivation at work between eight and ten, 49% also rated their sleep within the same range. Shift to those who rate their sleep between and one and three, and only 3% are motivated above a seven. Consider the science, and it’s clear why a bad night’s sleep can lead to a grumpy and demotivated day in the office, as sleep science coach Jason Piper explains: “Poor emotional regulation and impaired decision making might be affected by sleep. Sleep deprivation has been associated with reduced blood flow in the area of the brain responsible for attention, alertness, and cognitive processes such as self-control, emotional responses, and decision making.”
Our data shows that being more postive and motivated throughout the day is likely to contribute to you being happier in your career. When we took all the respondents who said they are happy in their career, 40% were those who rated their sleep between eight and ten, and just 9% were those in 1-3 bracket. Sleep therapist Dr. Katharina Lederle explained the link between sleeping well and enjoying your work: “Having enough sleep directly affects your concentration, memory, problem-solving skills and your ability to regulate your emotion. “It also helps you regulate other physiological systems such as your appetite which can also promote productivity at work because you are not distracted by hunger.”
What’s costing you a good night’s sleep?
Given the impact it has on our working lives, we also sought to investigate some of the reasons why we might not be maximising our sleep.
Respondents were asked what activities they commonly undertake before going to sleep. Some of the most popular appear to be affecting our ability to get to sleep. Almost half all respondents (49%) who said they watch Netflix or TV before bed are not getting the minimum recommended seven hours of sleep per night. More than one in five (22%) get five hours or less. Smartphones and tablets delivered a similar trend. 48% of those who use them before bed are getting less than seven hours sleep a night, with almost a quarter (24%) getting five hours or less. Why are TVs, tablets, and smartphones such a barrier when it comes to nodding off? Here’s clinical sleep health expert Martin Reed to explain: “Using your phone or computer when in bed stimulates the mind, effectively acting as a signal to keep you awake. Not only that, but electronic devices with backlit displays emit blue light, and this can suppress the release of melatonin — an important sleep hormone that helps regulate our sleep/wake cycle.”
Sleeping with partners
One final factor could be the person you are sleeping next to. We asked respondents in a relationship if their partner regularly steals the bed covers from them, and cross-referenced that with the amount of sleep those people were getting. For those who sleep for seven hours or more a night, 56% do not have their covers stolen regularly by partners – 10 percentage points higher than those that do. At the other end of the scale, less sleep is correlated with more cover-thievery. One in four of those sleeping for five hours or less has their covers stolen on a regular basis, eight percentage points higher than those that don’t (17%).
Do ideal sleeping habits exist?
So, what can you do to get a better night’s sleep? We asked respondents about common sleeping habits to see which get you the most shut-eye.
Left or right of the bed?
Which side of the bed you sleep on might seem trivial, but our data suggests the right-hand side is the one you should be leaning towards. Over a third of right-hand sleepers (36%) rated their sleep eight or more, seven percentage points more than those sleeping on the left. Whilst the side of the bed you sleep on may not have a direct effect on your sleep, it may influence which side of your body you sleep on; something which Jason Piper says can have an impact: “The ideal position is on your non-dominant side in a fetal position. You have to look back in our evolution to why this is the optimal position. “When you are in the fetal position, your heart, internal organs, and reproductive organs are protected and have your dominate arm free for defending yourself. This allows the brain to feel secure and relax more on a subconscious level.”
One pillow or two?
You might also think the number of pillows is just a personal preference, but again our survey found a trend in favour of one particular habit. We found that the fewer pillows you use, the more sleep you get. Just 41% of respondents using three pillows get at least seven hours sleep a night, less than two pillows users (49%) and one (56%). A trio of pillows also seems more likely to keep you tossing and turning at night, with nearly a third using this number (32%) getting five hours or less. Again, the trend is towards fewer pillows, with those using two pillows (23%) and one (15%) appearing less likely to get five hours or less of nightly sleep. Jason Piper explains why less is more when it comes to pillows: “You should only need one. Pillows help to offset differences in your mattress. If you are needing to use multiple pillows, your mattress may be too firm which is keeping your head too far from the mattress or you are putting your neck in an unnatural position.” Ultimately, a good night’s sleep starts with a mattress that’s comfortable for you. Once you get that right, it could lead to you being more positive, motivated, and happier when you hit the office each day.