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27th March 2024

Sleeping for success: The links between sleep, performance and wellbeing

We spend around 1/3 of our lives asleep, which for the average person translates into 9,733 days or 233,600 hours. This may seem like a big proportion of our lives that we “lose”, however quality and quantity of sleep directly affects the remaining 2/3 of our time that we are conscious.

Quality vs Quantity

When considering whether we our current sleep patterns are healthy, it’s important to differentiate between quality and quantity as both are key for maintaining good health.

The determination of an “adequate” quantity of sleep may appear ambiguous as it varies among individuals due to factors such as age, lifestyle, and genetics. However, the National Sleep Foundation outlines that adults within the typical working age (between 18-64) are recommended to have 7-9 hours of sleep per day.

Across research, sleep quality is measured in a number of ways, however common measures include how long it takes to fall asleep, how we feel upon waking, physiological patterns (muscle activity, heart rate, breathing patterns) and the number of times we wake up during our sleep cycle. Therefore, poor sleep quality exemplified by frequent awakenings during the night due to frequent movement or breathing conditions such as sleep apnoea, difficulty in falling asleep and feeling tired or experiencing “brain fog” when we wake up in the morning.

sleep quality and quantity


Sleep plays a crucial role in the process of learning. The period of sleep in which we dream the most is called Rapid Eye Movement (REM), and it’s during this period that our brain processes information we have learned and consolidates memories. Poor quality and quantity of sleep means a reduced amount of time we spend in the REM stage, which leads to reduced learning and poorer recollection of new information.

For example, applying this to the workplace, if we have poor night of sleep after learning new skills, we are less likely to be able to remember what we’ve learned the following day.

Alongside poorer learning, poor sleep is also associated with:

  • Difficulty in concentrating and reduced attention
  • Impaired judgement in decision making, resulting in increased impulsivity and high-risk decisions
  • Poorer physical performance – coordination, reaction times, endurance
  • Negative effects on our physical health, such as impaired immune system and heart functioning, which in turn can affect both wellbeing and performance


Healthy sleep is also really important for maintaining good wellbeing. Sleep plays a vital role in regulating cortisol, the “stress” hormone that’s responsible for the fight or flight mechanism. Healthy sleep results in increased cortisol levels in the morning, helping us wake up and get out of bed. However a lack of sleep can lead to erratic levels of cortisol throughout the day, which can lead to increased stress and irritability and lower resilience against the stressful situations we may experience at work.

Sleep also plays a crucial role in managing mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. Research has found insomnia to be a predictor of developing depression and people experiencing anxiety reported decreased symptoms after improving their sleep. Therefore taking action to improve your sleep is a vital act of self-care for managing wellbeing and mental health.

sleeping for success

Tips for improving your sleep

  • Spend more time outside – our bodies use sunlight to manage our circadian rhythms, which is our internal clock which regulates our sleep-wake cycles
  • Engage in regular exercise – physical activity helps regulate our circadian rhythms, as well as help release tension from work-related stress we may experience and ruminate about when trying to sleep
  • Avoid exposure to screens before bed – blue light from screens can interfere with the production of melatonin, the hormone that tells our bodies to sleep
  • Avoid or reduce the consumption of food and drink that can cause difficulty in falling asleep – for example high caffeine drinks or foods that cause indigestion, such as spicy foods or heavy meals

 How Impact can help you

Poor sleep can have significant negative effects on both wellbeing and performance. Our qualified coaches can help develop self-awareness and strategies to improve wellbeing and target the factors that negatively affect wellbeing and performance.