8 min read

The Importance Of Sleep In Software Development

Sleep/Rest/Metabolism/Software/Software Developer/Tech/Technology/Coders/Engineers/Developers
Software development is a demanding profession. There's always work to be done. So, why should sleep be prioritzed? Click to learn more.
Written by
Jonathan Mitchell
Published on
October 20, 2023

The emphasis on productivity within software development can take on a tyrannical persona if not contained. Working hard, putting in long hours, and depriving your body of its basic needs can become commonplace in toxic work environments. Personal health takes a back seat to work ethic. There's nothing wrong with being deeply passionate about the work you're responsible for. However, that passion shouldn't come at the expense of a healthy lifestyle. An integral part of this equation is sleep. Burning the midnight oil has become a flagship example of work ethic, but is it necessary? Does it bring about the benefits you believe it does? There has been a copious amount of research done. That analysis has concluded that sleep, and the quality level of that sleep, is essential for daily functionality and long-term health. Expectations can vary in software development sprints. Sometimes a deadline that requires more time, energy, and effort than usual must be met. That's understandable. But, if you find the time to get the right amount of rest, your capabilities will remain at their highest level instead of deteriorating over time due to exhaustion. It's time we prioritize sleep and understand its importance, especially in software development.

The Importance Of Sleep For Software Engineers

Sleep is vital for software engineers, or really anyone for that matter. As a software engineer, you need to be able to think clearly, solve complex problems, and write error-free code. These tasks require mental energy, so getting enough rest is critical.

When you don't get enough sleep, it reduces your ability to concentrate and focus. You may need help solving problems that would generally be easy for you. You may make mistakes you wouldn't usually make. Also, lack of sleep can lead to forgetfulness and difficulty learning new things.

Combining all these facts further reinforces the point that rest is integral. Sleep enables your body and mind to recover. It helps you heal. It's an essential part of the human experience. Whether you find it to be a waste of time or not, sleep fundamentally impacts humans. Your ability to think critically and problem-solve is beneficially affected by sleep.

Rest Leads To Higher Levels Of Efficiency And Productivity

It may be tempting to prioritize your work instead of giving your body the reprieve it needs. Rest and recovery are seen as a waste of time when things need to be done. Deadlines are essential and ever-present. That being said, they shouldn't inhibit your ability to care for your body.

People say they can survive, or even thrive, on only a few hours of sleep. Those opinions are based on personal experience, not necessarily fact. Interpret them how you want, but a grain of salt might be necessary. In a perfect world, you should get 7-9 hours of sleep and avoid regularly working late into the night. "Normally, workers spend about 2 hours of the 7 to 8 hours of sleep time in REM, but if they limit their sleep time to 6 hours or less, they also limit their REM sleep, thus affecting their high-performance functioning and productivity levels." - The Costs Of Short Sleep (Kathleen K. Ohlmann, RN, MSN, COHN-S, and Mary I. O'Sullivan, MS)

It's also essential to create a comfortable sleeping environment. Some ways to do this are keeping the temperature cool and darkening your room. Establishing a regular sleep schedule can help train your body to sleep better. You'll perform at your best by taking care of your body and mind. That performance will enable you to enjoy a long, successful career. Remember, getting enough sleep is not a luxury; it's a necessity. So prioritize sleep and give your body the rest it needs to function at its best.

Sleep Leads To Less Stress

Sleep deprivation can be a consequence of socialization and good times. Is that always the case? No. More often than not, our daily responsibilities force us to burn the midnight oil. These tasks, whether related to work or not, add stress. It may seem counterintuitive that sleeping instead of working would alleviate that stress. However, that is precisely how the human body works.

"Sleep increases growth hormone and testosterone and reduces metabolism and blood flow to fight against stress. Stress causes psychophysiological responses and activates the HPA system, which are incompatible with normal sleep." - Stress and Sleep Disorder (Kuem Sun Han, Lin Kim, Insop Shim)

The point is that staying up all night isn't indicative of a good work ethic. Staying up late won't relieve that stress. If you have to choose between working until midnight or going to sleep at 11 p.m., go to sleep. Whatever you may have accomplished in that one hour is minuscule compared to the impact that extra hour of sleep can have. The hard reset Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep provides the human body is crucial. If you're feeling overwhelmed and some inner struggle exists on whether to work super late or snooze, choose the latter. You won't regret it.

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