June 06, 2018
It’s the middle of the workweek, a time when we’re both hitting our strides and looking forward to a restful weekend. And new research confirms something workers of all stripes have known all along—the quality of our sleep impacts how productive we are on the job. New studies presented this week at SLEEP 2018, the annual conference of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, LLC, drive home this fact with numbers that should be a wake-up call to employees and employers alike.
One study that has been receiving lots of buzz is out of the University of Western Australia, and estimates the economic costs of poor sleep for that nation. Researchers analyzed data collected from national health surveys and found that limited sleep cost Australia’s national economy $17.88 billion, 1.55% of its GDP. And these were just the financial costs, which the study’s authors defined as related to health care, losses in productivity, and costs related to vehicle accidents. They also examined so-called non-financial costs, such as impacts to well-being, which they estimated amounted to an additional $27.33 billion. With one out of three adults thought to suffer from less-than-adequate sleep, these types of numbers are not limited to Australia. As Kate Harrison reported earlier this week on Forbes online, the Rand Corporation’s research revealed that poor sleep underlies an estimated 1.23 million days of missed work and a cost of up to $411 billion per year in the United States.
Another study presented at SLEEP focused more specifically on the impacts of various sleep problems on job productivity. Led by senior author Michael Grandner, Ph.D., MTR, director of the sleep and Health Research Program and assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson, researchers found that individuals with moderate to severe insomnia experienced a productivity loss 107% greater than those who slept well. Mild insomnia caused a 58% increase in productivity loss for its sufferers, while daytime sleepiness caused a 50% increase in productivity loss and snoring causes a 19-34% greater loss in productivity. The study turns on its head the notion that we can boost productivity by foregoing sleep, revealing a 19% increase in productivity loss among people who got only 5 to 6 hours of sleep daily, and a 29% increase in those who got less than 5 hours.
Both studies reveal that, in addition to being a public health issue, sleep quality and duration correlate directly to workplace effectiveness. So the next time you’re tempted to log a couple more hours of work at the expense of rest, consider how much that rest might actually add to your productivity and bottom line. As Robert Yang, a student research assistant and lead author for the latter study noted, “This is further evidence that sleep is not wasted time—it’s wisely invested time!”
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