When Associate Professor Joshua Gooley, from Duke-NUS’ Neuroscience and Behavioural Disorders Programme, started out with a broad interest in neuroscience, he hadn’t thought that his fascination with the topic of sleep and dreaming would shape his career path.
As it turned out, because he mentioned his interest in sleep in his application letter to the PhD programme in Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School, he ended up joining the school’s training programme in sleep. After spending time in the labs, the topic hooked him, and he has been working as a sleep/circadian biology researcher ever since.
Sleep studies aren’t anything new, though. For instance, a 2014 study found that the amount of sleep, as well as time we go to bed, vary from the ages of 13 to 32, with those in early adolescence and early adulthood needing an average of eight and a half hours of sleep a night. This had a direct effect on students and young professionals waking up early for school or work after a short sleep, another 2020 study found. Other studies have drawn connections between quality sleep and cognitive performance, as well as mental and physical outcomes.
Thus, Associate Professor Gooley set out to test whether early morning classes at universities may negatively impact students’ sleep and learning performance. To do so, he used student Wi-Fi connection data, log-ins to university digital learning platforms and activity data from special sensing watches to conduct large-scale monitoring of class attendance and sleep behaviour of tens of thousands of university students.
The findings – that students lost about an hour of sleep when they had early class times and that morning classes on more days of the week were associated with a lower grade point average (GPA) – were published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour.
In this article, he also expounds on the importance of sleep for both job hunters and young professionals.
How sleep affects your job hunt
It’s no secret that poor sleep can lead to sleepiness and impaired daytime functioning. Translated to job applicants or young working professionals, it means that inadequate sleep could lead to underperformance due to difficulty in concentrating and impaired cognitive processing. In turn, this could impact the way that you perform during interviews.
“The other major way that poor sleep can affect performance is by lowering motivation,” Associate Professor Gooley further stated. “People who are sleep-deprived often struggle to get going and may not do all the little things necessary to achieve their goals.”
The art of getting enough sleep
Ensuring that you get sufficient amounts of sleep sometimes boils down to time management. The problem is that a lot of fresh graduates and young professionals feel that they don’t have enough time for sleep because they’re busy with job hunting or work.
“It’s not possible to achieve healthy sleep every night,” Associate Professor Gooley noted. “Because there may be occasions when sleep is sacrificed to meet a deadline.”
In general, quality of work is likely to be better if sufficient time has been allocated for sleep. To do so, Associate Professor Gooley recommends an exercise to calculate the amount of sleep needed and then use it to set a bedtime curfew.
“Set goals for your sleep and develop a plan for achieving your goals. Reflect on your sleep behaviour and the way that you feel during the day – whether you feel tired or refreshed – so that you can figure out what’s working and what’s not,” he advised.
Tip: When you’ve found the amount of sleep that works best for you, adjust your behaviour in such a way that you can stick to it and reward yourself with the thought that you’ll be able to perform at a high level the day after with sufficient sleep!
According to Associate Professor Gooley, allocating enough time for healthy sleep is one of the best things you can do for your health. However, he also cheekily admitted that it’s a rather interesting method of caring for yourself, noting that sleep mostly consists of “lying in bed motionless and unconscious”!
However, the benefits of getting enough sleep can’t be denied. Based on his work on sleep deprivation, Associate Professor Gooley highlighted that jobseekers and young professionals with sufficient sleep may to be sharper and more motivated, both during the interview process as well as when at work.
As he put it, this is because they’re “more likely to find joy in what they do and less likely to experience burnout”.
Moreover, once you manage to land your first job, sufficient sleep has the added effect of keeping mistakes and workplace accidents to a minimum when you’re on the job!
Whether you’re a “morning lark” or “night owl”, you might have had the misconception of sleep seeming like a waste of time. However, with this article, we hope we’ve managed to highlight the importance of sleep in both your job hunt and working life!