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woman leans her head on a table, represeting consequences of sleep deprivation

Sleep Deprivation and Work Performance: How Americans Lose Billions Each Year

The Consequences of Sleep Deprivation Extend Beyond Your Health—It’s Financial

Everyone has heard the term “beauty rest,” and it is common knowledge that sleep deprivation speeds up the aging process. But did you know that there is also a correlation between sleep deprivation and work performance that could hurt you financially? What if I told you that getting just one additional hour of sleep a night could raise your income?

The Consequences of Sleep Deprivation

A 2016 study conducted, at University of California, San Diego, by Gibson and Shrader found exactly that: People who increased their sleep by one hour per night saw their wages increase by 5% in the long run. In 2019, the same researchers found that workers who live in locations where people get more sleep tend to earn more than those in areas where people get less. Matthew Gibson, an economist from Williams College, theorizes that better-rested workers are more productive and are compensated for it with additional income.

Those in the medical profession have been telling patients for years that lack of sleep was a pathway to poor health. In 2018, the CDC published a study showing that poor sleep is linked to obesity, heart disease, increased risk of stroke and diabetes, in addition to secondary medical problems such as sleep apnea. Despite this grim news, 40% of Americans report getting less than 7 hours of sleep. How can medical professionals increase patient compliance?

What almost no one has been saying is that the relationship between sleep deprivation and productivity is of equal importance—their bank accounts could also suffer as a result of sleep deprivation. Would that missing piece of information make a difference in how patients respond to medical advice? One 2019 study from Michigan State University found that participants who were sleep deprived were twice as likely to make errors on cognitive tests the next morning and three times as likely to have a lapse in attention. The study also found effects on memory recall.. That’s a bad combination while on the job!

What is the Connection Between Sleep Deprivation and Work Performance?

During the course of a regular work day, you are learning new information, performing tasks and using technology. However, sleep deprivation can make it difficult to perform these tasks and, in turn, kill productivity. Days are spent catching up on sleep, and fatigue compromises your immune system, therefore making you more likely to get sick. According to research published in the American Journal of Managed Care, insomnia accounts for an estimated productivity loss equivalent to 252 days or $63.2 billion per year in the United States. Individuals experience a capital loss of $2,280 on average annually. Clearly, your work will suffer, and performance evaluations will reflect that, negatively impacting your income and any chance for raises and promotions.

Getting along with others is an important part of most jobs. Positive work relationships enable you to be part of a collaborative effort, contribute meaningfully to meetings and projects and be well-liked by your bosses and coworkers. Unfortunately, a lack of sleep increases the levels of the stress hormone cortisol, leaving you cranky and irritable. That does not bode well for building strong, positive work relationships. If you are difficult to get along with, you are more likely to be overlooked for leadership positions, or worse, be dismissed from your job. Yet again, the correlation between sleep deprivation and work performance proves true.

Do You Have “Presenteeism?”?

Evaluate yourself: Are you zoning out during meetings? Do you leave a meeting fuzzy on the details of what was discussed? Are you constantly struggling to meet deadlines? HR people call this problem “presenteeism.” Is this you? You might be physically present, but are you mentally present?

How can you improve both your sleep and finances?

Start simple:

  • Reduce or eliminate your caffeine intake.
  • Avoid using technology at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
  • Keep your smartphone out of your bedroom while you sleep.
  • Establish regular bedtime routines.

Don’t forget to address the obvious: Is your bed comfortable? Is your room dark enough?

Still Struggling to Fall Asleep?

Sleep research from UCLA offers a few more insights for those who find it hard to settle in for the night. Try using white-noise machines or soothing music. Turn down the thermostat. Did you know that the human body’s core temperature drops in the evening in preparation for slumber? Many who struggle with sleep find that by adjusting the room temperature, they can sleep longer and more deeply.

You can also look to Mother Nature for help. Plants like valerian root and gardenia can improve the air quality in your room and help you sleep. Essential oils like lavender and Roman Chamomile have been shown to aid in relaxing before bedtime. Before trying prescription sleep aids that can cause dependence, try natural sleep aids, like melatonin, or magnesium. Clinical psychologist Michael Breus Ph.D. explains: “Maintaining healthy magnesium levels often leads to deeper, more sound sleep. Magnesium plays a role in supporting deep, restorative sleep by maintaining healthy levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter that promotes sleep.” He suggests eating foods, such as dark leafy greens, chocolate, coffee and legumes, or by taking a supplement with dosing as recommended by your physician.

While you may have decided long ago that a few extra wrinkles are the price you’re willing to pay for extra hours making money at work, you are likely paying more than you bargained for. Don’t ignore the important relationship between sleep deprivation and productivity and the effect it has on your finances. Isn’t a 5% raise worth the discipline it takes to get 60 minutes more rest each day?

[Editor’s Note: To learn more about this and related topics, you may want to attend the following webinars: Time for a Break: Managing Leaves of Absence and Accommodating Disabilities and Show Them the Money: Wage & Hour Compliance. This is an updated version of an article originally published on December 6, 2017.]

©All Rights Reserved. June, 2020.  DailyDAC™, LLC d/b/a/ Financial Poise™

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About Mercedes Holmen

Mercedes is a business owner and Executive Consultant with Rodan + Fields. In addition, she works in the field of behavior analysis for children with autism and their families, specializing in preschool aged children. She also has her Masters in Science from University of California at Davis.

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