The Art of Shutting Down

A new Korn Ferry report looks at the power of sleep to boost performance—and the problem with not getting enough.

Amelia Haynes

Associate Researcher, Korn Ferry Institute

Here’s an interesting fact: people spend one third of their lives on sleep.

Research shows that, on average, a person logs as many as 26 years sleeping, plus another 7 years just trying to get there. That’s 33 years—or 12,045 days—spent in bed.

For some of people, it’s a part of their day they look forward to. For others, it’s simply a bridge to tomorrow. Either way, sleep is what people do at the end of just about every day. Or at least, experts say, we should. “Any athlete will tell you the importance of a rest day for building your muscles,” says Amelia Haynes, associate researcher at the Korn Ferry Institute, Korn Ferry’s innovation center. “The brain is a muscle too, and in order to keep it in the best shape possible, rest day has to happen every day.”

There are a few theories as to why sleep matters so much. But what science knows for sure, though, is that sleep is critical—and that people are not getting enough of it. In its new report, The Art of Shutting Down, the Korn Ferry Institute looks at how losing sleep impacts brain function, and in turn, hurts our health and our performance at work. Indeed, although working tirelessly can show drive and determination, the report reveals that foregoing rest and sleep to achieve objectives can lead to forgetfulness, irritability, chronic fatigue, and a loss of focus, among other issues, which impacts productivity and engagement.

Sleep helps repair, restore, and re-energize the brain and the body. This means that when a person gets good sleep, Haynes says, they see their health risks decrease, their concentration sharpen, their productivity multiply, their social interactions improve, and their performance grow. “There is the old joke in the tech world of ‘Try turning it off, then on again’ when something isn’t working the way it should be,” she says. “It turns out, this is actually a really effective strategy when the equipment you’re talking about is your brain and body.”

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