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Work, Life & Engagement Blog

Work, Life & Engagement Blog

Date: Jan 16, 2017

Are you sleepy?  Do you feel tired?  If so, you are not alone. 

The problem of sleep deprivation is so pervasive that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says insufficient sleep is a ‘public health problem.’ 

Due to competing demands in our work-life mix, it’s easy to short change the hours we need to restore our body and mind. When people are sleeping less than the recommended hours of sleep, it is associated with lifestyle factors related to a 24/7 society, such as stress, alcohol consumption, smoking, lack of physical activity, excessive electronic media use, etc.

A recent report by Hamper, et al, aims to sound an alarm because insufficient sleep has been found to be associated with a range of negative health and social outcomes, including success in the workforce. The authors state, “Given the potential adverse effects of insufficient sleep on health, well-being, and productivity, the consequences of sleep-deprivation have far-reaching economic consequences.” For example, on an annual basis, the US loses an equivalent of about 1.23 million working days due to insufficient sleep. You can review other key findings and the authors’ recommendations on the Rand Corporation website.

If you aren’t getting the recommend number of hours, what would it take to increase the time you spend sleeping? What might you gain?

Just as there are seasons in one’s life, there can be seasons or cycles in our work. Maybe the start and end of the semester impacts the pace of your work. Or, maybe grant writing schedules dictate your schedule. One way to manage pace changes and overwork is a strategy called Sprint-Recover.

This line of thinking can be much more liberating and powerful than a typical message of everything in moderation. This is not intended to devalue moderation at all, but Sprint-Recover tends to resonate with super-busy people who make choices to push ahead on a special project, take on one more task, throw a party, engage in extra activities, etc. It’s also very aligned with American culture and messages that we see so often around pushing oneself, going hard, being great – the Sprint. What often needs more attention is the Recover component.

Sprint-Recover can be a great perspective for work-life mix because it empowers choice to push and to rest. It can be as simple as “I’m working extra because I’m getting ready to be out for 10 days” or more complex in planning for a heavy workload/family load for the next number of weeks, and accepting that choice, knowing that catch-up and recovery time are planned. The key take away is that we need to be thoughtful about planning and taking downtime – and not feel guilty about recovering from a big sprint. 

The Sprint-Recover term as it relates to work-life mix is not widely discussed in this exact way, but two researchers at Portland State University published a white paper on this topic and they offer some nice strategies and ways to think about the Recover side of a Sprint.