Poor Sleep Slows Work Productivity

Megan Brooks

June 15, 2018

BALTIMORE — Workers who experience insomnia and other sleep-related problems are less productive during the workday, hint results of a new study.

"If you take someone with insomnia and someone without insomnia, put them in the same life, the one with insomnia is losing twice as much productivity," senior author Michael Grandner, PhD, director of the Sleep and Health Research Program and assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson, told Medscape Medical News.

Sleep should be considered an important element in workplace health, Grandner and colleagues say.

The study was presented here at SLEEP 2018: 32nd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.

"An Investment in Time"

The researchers analyzed data on 1007 adults aged 22 to 60 years participating in the Sleep and Healthy Activity, Diet, Environment, and Socialization (SHADES) study. Work productivity was assessed with the validated Well-being Assessment of Productivity.

Participants reported how much sleep they usually got at night on weekdays or work days, whether they were loud snorers, and, if so, on how many nights per week. Other assessments included the Insomnia Severity Index and Epworth Sleepiness Scale.

Lower productivity was associated with very short sleep duration (≤4 hours/night; P = .042), short sleep duration (5 to 6 hours/night; P = .001), and long sleep duration (≥9 hours/night; P = .04). It was also associated with both mild (P < .0001) and moderate-severe (P < .0001) insomnia and daytime sleepiness (P < .0001), as well as loud snoring on one or more nights per week.

The investigators note that people with mild insomnia experienced 58% more productivity loss, while those with daytime sleepiness experienced 50% more productivity loss.  People who snored regularly, an indication of sleep apnea, experienced 19% to 34% more productivity loss, depending on the number of snoring nights, compared with those who didn't snore.

"Sleep plays many different functions in brain health and all sorts of processes that help us be more productive during the day," said Grandner.  "We all have things in our life that get in the way of us being productive, whether it's a problem with a co-worker or a problem at home, stress, or whatever. Our hypothesis was that part of what sleep is doing in the brain is setting us up to be more productive and less vulnerable to those things and more resilient.  If your sleep is poor, the productivity you are losing from all these things goes up," he explained.

Sleep is not a cost of time. Sleep is an investment in time. Dr Michael Grandner

Grandner also noted that many people sleep less in the hopes of being more productive, but it doesn't seem to work that way, according to this study.  Compared with those who regularly got 7 to 8 hours of sleep, those who reported getting only 5 to 6 hours experienced 19% more productivity loss, and those who got fewer than 5 hours of sleep nightly experienced 29% more productivity loss.

"The time you are taking away from sleep to be more productive, you are costing yourself in productivity in the future. Sleep is not a cost of time. Sleep is an investment in time, and if you don't invest your time there, you won't get the dividends in the end of the day," said Grandner.

The study had no commercial funding. The authors have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

SLEEP 2018: 32nd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies. Abstract 0189. Presented June 4, 2018.

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