While we know that most people need around eight hours of good sleep a night, the true amount of sleep you need varies from person to person and on lifestyle factors like your diet, medical needs, and how much work you do during the day. Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is challenging, especially when there’s always work to do. For many people, balancing work demands can make getting a good night’s rest more of a hope than a reality. However, sleep deprivation and poor sleep quality make it hard to successfully hold down a job and keep up with your health.
So what exactly is the relationship between your sleep and work schedule? Even further, does losing sleep cause you not to be as good of a worker?
The Secret to Sleep Schedules
One of the key factors influencing your sleep quality is your sleep schedule. Consistency is key when trying to regulate your biological clock, also known as your chronotype or circadian rhythm. When this is functioning normally, it helps determine your level of alertness and when your body needs rest.
So, what does a healthy sleep schedule look like? Going to bed and waking up at the same time is the best way to help your body learn to develop a natural sleep pattern.
To calculate how much sleep you need, experts recommend finding the time that’s 7.5-8 hours before you typically wake up. Head to bed around this time every night for a week or two, tracking how much you sleep. While this doesn’t work for everyone, specifically people who operate on a biological clock, it is worth a try.
Unfortunately, the demands of a job or work around the house can throw a wrench in your body’s plan to get the sleep it needs.
Consequences of Irregular Work Hours
Regardless of your career, working irregular hours can create an unstable foundation for your sleep schedule. Rotating between day, evening, and night shifts makes it difficult for your body to adapt.
The more tired you are from the constantly changing bedtimes, the more likely you are to develop a sleep disorder, which are conditions like narcolepsy, hypothyroidism, and sleep apnea that impact your rest. There’s even something called shift work sleep disorder that affects your ability to choose when you sleep. It also makes you feel tired, even when you don’t want to be, like when you’re at work, spending time with friends, or staying asleep once you go to bed.
A 2021 study from the Yonsei University College of Medicine supports this, finding that out of a sample of over 16,000 hourly food service and retail workers, those with “unstable or unpredictable schedules” had trouble with:
- Poor sleep quality
- Trouble falling asleep
- Waking up repeatedly during sleep
- Feeling tired after waking up
Surprisingly, working in these industries with an unpredictable schedule has a harder impact on the body than dealing with a preschool-age child. Because parenting during these years is mentally taxing and notoriously characterized by a lack of sleep, irregular work hours significantly impact the body. It can even weaken your immune system, which means your body is more susceptible to contracting anything from the flu or the common cold.
In addition to developing a sleep disorder, sleep deprivation is associated with several health problems, such as kidney disease, diabetes, or stroke. Most commonly, people who don’t get enough sleep are at a higher risk of developing high blood pressure (hypertension) and high cholesterol (hyperlipidemia).
Beyond the physical toll being tired has on you, this tiredness also affects your mental health. You may have trouble concentrating, remembering things, and regulating your mood – leading to mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, or other emotional disorders. Cognitively, disordered sleeping also heightens your chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia if you are genetically predisposed to it.
An irregular work schedule, poor sleep quality, and health problems all impact your productivity. Because sleep deprivation can cause you to struggle with concentration, memory retention, and, most importantly, problem-solving, your job performance can suffer when one or more of these cognitive abilities are impaired. Reduced alertness and increased drowsiness also lead to a higher likelihood that you’ll make an error or be involved in an accident at work, putting your and your coworker’s safety at risk.
Does Your Work Schedule Interfere With Your Sleep Schedule?
If your job requires you to work irregular hours, like the night shift or rotating between different sets of work hours, you’re probably dealing with sleep quality issues. Getting support for these issues is essential to protecting your health. This means talking to your employer about getting on a more set schedule or finding a new job to fit the level of rest you need better.
However, getting help from a sleep expert is the safest, easiest, and often most helpful option for dealing with an erratic work schedule that impacts your sleep. At Jacksonville Sleep Center, we’re proud to be the only sleep facility in North Florida with board-certified sleep experts. Take advantage of our thorough sleep assessment and treatment services to improve your sleep quality. Request an appointment with a member of our dream team to get started.