Sleep is hard work

Are you tired of feeling drained and unproductive at work?
Do you struggle to stay focused and motivated throughout the day?
If so, you’re not alone. Many people struggle to get enough high-quality sleep, which can have a major impact on their performance at work. Research has shown that poor sleep habits can lead to decreased productivity, increased risk of injury, increased stress levels and decreased cognitive performance. But there’s good news: by making a few simple changes to your sleep habits, you can improve your sleep quality and boost your productivity at work. Discover the link between your nightly sleep and your work performance and let us give you some tips for a better night’s sleep.

Since sleep is an essential component of physical and mental well-being and optimal performance at work, it is therefore natural that poor sleep quality has many adverse consequences. For example, consistently poor sleep leads to reduced productivity, increased risk of injury, higher stress levels and reduced cognitive performance. Your creativity and problem-solving abilities, both not to be underestimated elements for success at work, are also greatly affected by too little sleep.

As we spend about one-third of our lives sleeping, it is therefore appropriate that we do all we can to avoid poor sleep.
But what exactly is sleep?
Well, greatly simplified, we can divide our sleep into several cycles of about 90 minutes each that follow one another. Each cycle in turn consists of two phases: non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM sleep), followed by rapid eye movement sleep (REM sleep). To complete the picture, we can divide NREM sleep and REM sleep into different phases.
Thus, in NREM sleep, we can distinguish four different phases.

        • Phase 1 – also called the falling asleep phase. This phase lasts only a few minutes and waking up quickly is not a problem from this phase, you may experience sudden muscle spasms.
        • Phase 2 – your waking threshold will increase, but you will still react to external or internal stimuli (e.g. street noises, feeling hungry, etc.). Your body temperature will drop and your breathing and heart rate will also decrease in frequency.
        • Phase 3 – your breathing will now be very regular, your heart rate will drop further and your muscles will have a total sense of relaxation.
        • Phase 4 – you will enter deep sleep, and your physical recovery will occur.

Phases 3 and 4 are often considered as one phase – the deep sleep phase. From the age of 40, this deep sleep phase will shorten and around the age of 70, it even disappears almost completely, resulting in older people sleeping less long and less soundly.

Your REM sleep starts about an hour and a half after falling asleep and your muscle tone will decrease even more, although rapid movements of small muscle groups will occur intermittently. This phase is also called dream sleep or paradoxical sleep as your brain activity will be at its highest while your muscles are virtually paralysed. After each REM phase, you will (unconsciously) wake up briefly, after which the sleep cycle will restart.


So what is poor sleep? Well, several scientific sources define poor sleep as a sleep of insufficient duration or poor quality.
Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep per night to function properly. Thus, less than this amount of sleep will lead to the previously mentioned negative effects on cognition and physical health.
Poor-quality sleep can be characterised by difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, or waking up without refreshing. It may also include sleep interrupted by frequent awakenings or sleep that is otherwise not restorative. Poor-quality sleep will also have the same negative effects on cognition and physical health as insufficient sleep.

So let it be clear that poor sleep habits affect not only our minds but also our bodies, as they play an important role in how we interact with our environment – including how we interact with other people when collaborating on e.g. projects or deadlines. Quality rest also helps us restore our energy levels through improved metabolism, so we as professionals need to ensure that we get enough undisturbed sleep each night if we want to perform well during the day both mentally and physically.

Thus, to optimise our sleep hygiene, it is extremely important to implement measures aimed at both our sleep conditions and our health behaviour.

  • Physical activity – since your daytime activities strongly influence your sleep, a good balance between exercise and relaxation is crucial.
  • Limit caffeine – avoid stimulants such as coffee, black tea, and energy drinks, … in the late afternoon and evening.
  • Avoid nicotine – as nicotine has similar effects to caffeine, we will therefore also have more trouble falling asleep after a cigarette.
  • Avoid alcohol – it will help us fall asleep, unlike caffeine and nicotine, but will seriously disrupt your sleep pattern itself.
  • Stress – it will seriously disrupt your sleep pattern, so try to relax as much as possible before going to bed, e.g. by meditating, or yoga, …
  • Build an evening ritual – that way your body knows that it can get ready for the night and will be able to relax more easily.
  • Think about your diet – avoid heavy evening meals as this will invariably linger on your stomach during the night, but don’t eat too lightly either as hunger can be a wake-up call.
  • Regularity is key – try to go to sleep at set times as much as possible to avoid confusing your body.
  • Consider your surroundings – ensure enough silence, avoid light and try not to leave your mobile phone on the bedside table. Air quality and temperature also play a big role; fresh air promotes sleep and a temperature between 15° and 20° C is ideal.

Thanks to these tips, you should get to dreamland faster and once there, you should be able to sleep more qualitatively for 7-9 hours. That way, you can reap the benefits of this during the day and thus perform cognitive tasks more efficiently.