Working late into the night may appear to have short term benefits for your career but it has a long term effect on both your health and productivity, according to a new study by Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School.
It can be difficult at times to switch off from work and to be able to keep your work and home life separate, especially on a deadline. However, according to new research by Harvard Medical School, the short-term productivity gains from skipping sleep to work are quickly washed away by the detrimental effects of sleep deprivation on your mood, ability to focus, and access to higher-level brain functions for days to come. Surprisingly, the results of the study found that the effect of sleep deprivation are so great that those who were highly intoxicated outperformed those with lack of sleep.
Skipping sleep impairs your brain function across the board. It slows your ability to process information and problem solve, kills your creativity, and catapults your stress levels and emotional reactivity. We've always known that sleep is good for your brain, but new research from the University of Rochester provides the first direct evidence for why your brain cells need you to sleep, and more importantly, achieve a higher quality of sleep. The study found that when you sleep your brain removes toxic proteins from its neurons that are by-products of neural activity when you're awake.
Unfortunately, your brain can remove them adequately only while you're asleep. So when you don't get enough sleep, the toxic proteins remain in your brain cells, wreaking havoc by impairing your ability to think-something no amount of caffeine can fix.
Sleep deprivation is linked to a variety of serious health problems, including heart attack, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. Other negative health effects include lowering your immune system, slows your body's ability to metabolise carbohydrates and control food intake therefore making you put on weight, ageing due to the lack of proteins that keep skin smooth and for men specifically, not sleeping enough reduces testosterone levels and lowers sperm count.
Managing home and work boundaries is an important part of getting a good night's sleep according to our sleep expert, Dr Nerina, "Write your to-do list before leaving work instead of at the beginning of the day. This stops you worrying about work in the evening and you are less likely to wake up during the night thinking about tasks that have to be done the next day. If you are planning to take work home, make a commitment about whether you are really going to do it or whether you're going to put it off all evening creating guilt and anxiety. Weekend working is often best done first thing on Saturday morning so that the rest of the weekend is available for rest and relaxation."
Are you often bringing work home and losing sleep over it? For more sleep tips visit our Sleep Toolkit for advice from Dr Nerina. If you are finding it hard to sleep or wake up regularly in the night and have a specific sleep question, receive a personal response by submitting your question here: /sleep-matters/ask-our-sleep-expert/