Does It Matter If You Oversleep?

There are so many reasons why oversleeping matters. It leads to lost productivity at home and in the workplace, impacts our mood for the rest of the day and can leave us feeling unprepared for the many tasks on our to do lists. Oversleeping can impact our awareness, judgment, and ability to think, function and be productive for the entire day. It costs employers money through employee tardiness, and impacts children’s ability to learn in the classroom.

People try to compensate for oversleeping by skipping important things that they would normally do in the morning, like taking a shower or eating breakfast. This, in turn, has a negative effect on mood, productivity and self-esteem throughout the day.

The face of a black windup alarm clock

Image via Wikipedia

Allowing time for a proper “waking up process” helps prepare us for the day ahead. Whether you enjoy a luxurious cup of coffee while reading the paper or are up and out the door quickly, the set of steps involved in your usual morning routine become a habit that helps you ease into your day in a way that your brain and body become accustomed to. A change in the routine that results from oversleeping can throw us off balance and it may take us several hours or even days to recover from that “hung over” feeling that results.

Oversleeping can leave us constantly trying to catch up or make up for the lost time for tasks or lateness. While recovering lost time simply is not possible, it doesn’t keep us from exasperating ourselves by trying and this can ruin our entire day.

Let’s look at one fictitious example. Leslie is an account executive at a large radio station. She is supposed to be at her desk by 9:00 a.m., which requires her to be awake no later than 6:00 a.m. On one particular day, let’s say it’s a Monday, Leslie’s alarm doesn’t go off and she sleeps until 8:15. Leslie couldn’t make it to work on time if she had access to the President’s plane but she figures “the less late the better” so she rushes around trying to get ready as quickly as she possibly can. In her rush some things at home get neglected. The cat doesn’t get fed and the dog doesn’t get her morning walk. Leslie doesn’t know it now, but she will return home to a cat that is sick because he ate part of a house plant and a bad surprise that the dog has left for her. This will just add to how bad her whole day was because she overslept. But meanwhile, let’s get back to Leslie’s bad start to the day.

Leslie pulls her least wrinkled outfit out of the closet – no time to iron. She does a less than perfect job on her hair and makeup. Leslie is a pretty lady but she won’t look her best today because she overslept. This will impact how she feels and how she does her job. Three co-workers will ask her if she is sick. Two of her co-workers will silently speculate that Leslie had too much to drink the night before, which is of course not the case. Leslie finally arrives at the bus stop with no coffee and no breakfast. She is hungry, groggy, and frustrated. She missed the 8:45 bus and the next one isn’t due until 9:15, fifteen minutes after she is supposed to be at work. Leslie finally makes it to work and slides by her boss’s office at 9:37 a.m., thankful that she has no meetings with clients on this day. What Leslie doesn’t know is that, while her boss never scolds her employees for being late, she silently keeps track of tardy employees and considers such things as lateness when awarding future bonuses, pay raises, promotions, and other opportunities.

Leslie works through lunch to try to catch up on uncompleted work that she feels she didn’t get done because she overslept. She has had no breakfast or lunch and eats a candy bar at 2:00. This leads to an even greater case of “afternoon slump” which causes Leslie to feel sluggish and tired and she isn’t doing her best work. She spends ten minutes searching for something she misfiled because she wasn’t paying attention and silently curses a coworker who drains the coffee pot and doesn’t make more coffee. These are not normal behaviors or reactions for Leslie and they cause her to feel guilty and she mentally beats herself up for the whole bad day she is having.

Leslie finally arrives home, hungry and exhausted at 6:00 p.m. She is also feeling sad and guilty about the whole day and vows to set an extra alarm to prevent this from happening again. Upon entering her apartment, she discovers that her cat has been sick and is presented with an unpleasant reminder of why she should never skip the dog’s morning walk. Leslie cleans up the messes, takes a shower and changes into clean pajamas. A friend calls to see if Leslie wants to meet for dinner, an offer Leslie would normally never refuse, but she feels too guilty about oversleeping and the miserable day at her job that resulted from it. She tells her friend that she has to stay home and get a good night’s sleep, leaving her friend to wonder why Leslie doesn’t want to spend time with her.

As illustrated by our friend Leslie, it does indeed matter if you oversleep. While it has probably happened to each of us at one time or another, appropriate measures should be taken to prevent it whenever possible. If setting three alarms, each one farther away from the bed is what gets you moving in the morning, by all means set three alarms. Maybe you need a wake-up call from a friend who is an early riser. Whatever it takes, do your best to never oversleep. The lateness, hunger, and stress that result are not worth it and can be prevented with some effort on our parts.

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