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Why sleep is even more important than you thought

Published: Thursday, Feb. 6 2014 5:06 p.m. MST

Sleep can directly improve productivity for greater success.

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Sendhil Mullainathan in a recent article in the New York Times, ‘Get Some Sleep, and Wake Up the G.D.P.’ espouses the importance of sleep and its large effect on a person's economic output.

While most studies emphasize the influence of inadequate sleep on a person's physical and medical state, they leave out the “biggest potential impact,” which is on the G.D.P.

“Most of today’s workers rely on their mental and social skills," Mullainathan writes. "And if those workers don’t get enough sleep, their lethargy, crankiness and poor decision-making will hurt the economy in assorted and significant ways.”

Mullainathan goes on to link an individual’s sleep deprivation/unproductiveness with the broader economy, asking if national productivity has fallen then why can’t better sleep be the answer?

According to The Daily Beast's David K. Randall in an August 2012 article, sleep deprivation makes people feel and act as if they were drunk, therefore, hindering their ability to be productive. “Sleep also looks to bolster the brain’s ability to handle taxing mental loads,” Randall writes.

Randall also cites a study at the City University of New York that confirms this.

“The amount of time each subject slept determined how well he or she performed on the task," the report states. "Subjects who were able to reach deeper stages of sleep demonstrated a better command of flexible thinking, a vital cognitive skill that allows us to apply old facts and information to new situations.”

A study in Occupational and Environmental Medicine published in 2000 also shows that sleep deprivation affects cognitive performance equivalent or worse than a blood alcohol level of 0.05 percent. The study shows that the subjects who experienced sleep loss demonstrated slower reaction times and weaker memories.

Similarly, Business Insider’s Tony Schwartz says that sleep deprivation harms productivity more than malnourishment in a March 2013 article. Citing a Harvard Business Review study, Schwartz notes that sleep is the first thing most people sacrifice, but that this choice severely impairs “health, mood, our cognitive capacity and productivity.”

“Many of the effects we suffer are invisible,” writes Schwartz. “Insufficient sleep, for example, deeply impairs our ability to consolidate and stabilize learning that occurs during the waking day. In other words, it wreaks havoc on our memory.”

It is fairly easy to see that in order to live productive lives - that support not only one's personal finances, but also the broader economy - sleep isn't just important, it's vital.

Erik Raymond is experienced in national and international politics. He relocated from the Middle East where he was working on his second novel. He produces content for DeseretNews.com. You can reach him at:

eraymond@deseretdigital.com

@RaymondErik

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