What’s the typical picture of a developer that comes to mind?
For some people, the image a developer conjures is a sleep-deprived individual, sitting in a dimly lit room in the middle of the night, slamming away on a keyboard.
Unfortunate as it is, and true in many cases, “sleep-deprived” has become almost synonymous to developers and programmers.
On busy days, 5 – 6 hours of sleep is all some developers get.
To illustrate our disregard for a good night’s sleep, there’s even a practice in the world of programming that promotes coding for 30 plus hours straight during intensive coding hacking marathons.
But is that really squeezing more productivity out of developers or doing the exact opposite- exhausting them so much impacting on sharpness and productivity?
Let’s talk about how lack of sleep can affect productivity at work.
Why is good night’s sleep essential? __Getting a good night’s sleep helps ensure you are fresh and science has proven that not doing so can have several negative effects on both body and mind, affecting mood, immunity and short/long term memory. __
You Need Good Sleep For Every Job That Requires Focus
Think of it this way- if you have a very serious medical operation that requires a lot of precision, would you want a doctor who has had no sleep for the past 24 or 36 hours straight to operate on you? Or would you prefer someone who has come in fresh and mentally alert in the morning after a good night’s sleep?
Being sleep-deprived has been correlated with low productivity in all tasks. Studies show that a lack of sleep is a significant factor in driving accidents too.
Programming Requires A Lot Of Focus!
Out of all professions, programming is one that really squeezes the juice out of your brain. It requires an extremely sharp and fresh mind that can understand the problem given to it, creatively design an algorithm to solve it, and then code every last detail accurately onto the console.
It is a mathematical activity, and you can't crunch that unless you are mentally alert. Building the logic of a computer program requires immense focus and concentration, usually for long uninterrupted periods of time. Programmers often need at least 10–15 minutes to get back into their tempo after taking a break, so they prefer working uninterrupted for longer periods of time.
But to be able to focus and work effectively through the day, you must have had proper sleep the night before.
There is only so long you can run off andrenaline before your efficiency starts going down again and you need a reboot (aka rest!).
I cannot stress enough the importance of a good rest and proper sleep in order to boost your creativity, memory, focus, and logical thinking.
Have you heard of the coder’s block (the developer’s version of the writer’s block)?
That is an extreme situation, but the cause behind it is the same- you have most likely been stressing yourself out and depriving yourself of sleep. Anyone and everyone in the industry will tell you that the first way to overcoming it is to take a break!
What Do The Studies Show?
There is a very popular research paper titled “Need for Sleep: the Impact of a Night of Sleep Deprivation on Novice Developers’ Performance” which studied the effects of loss of sleep on developers, and the results could not have been clearer.
Among a test group of 45 undergraduate students, 23 were told to stay awake the night before they were given a programming task, while the remaining 22 slept fully that night. The results showed that those who had not slept showed a 50% reduction in performance and quality of code. 50 percent! Loss of sleep actually cuts productivity in half!
The sleepless students also worked less efficiently, taking longer, and making more syntactic mistakes in their code and having to repeatedly fix them.
The Medical Research On The Impact of Sleep Deprivation Is Real!
Medical research has no two opinions on sleep loss being bad for you. The endless researches on it all show that sleep deprivation:
- Negatively impacts both short-term and long-term memory
- Dumbs down your creativity, concentration and problem solving skills
- Makes you moody and prone to depression
- Makes you feel physically lethargic and even affects your balance and coordination
- Weakens immunity and invites illnesses
The list goes on, but surely you get the idea of how harmful sleep deprivation is for you and your job.
Apart from developers on an individual level, software companies as a whole should change this mindset and focus more on quality of work, instead of expecting developers to work for long hours, which ultimately does more harm to productivity than good.