Not getting enough sleep takes a huge toll on you the next day. Feelings of sluggishness, irritability, and overall mental malaise are all typical side effects of sleep deprivation – not to mention the increased early mortality. In the short term, though, insufficient or poor quality sleep can slow you down mentally and make you less able to function as well as you can. Now, a new study has found that (big surprise), poor sleep slows down productivity at work. Want to land that big promotion? Maybe you should actually go to bed on time for once.

The study was conducted by sleep researcher Michael Grandner, director of the Sleep and Health Research Program and assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson. Using data gathered from the Sleep and Healthy Activity, Diet, Environment, and Socialization (SHADES) study, Grandner and fellow researchers analyzed the sleep habits of 1,007 adults between 22 and 60 years of age. Those sleep data were compared with indicators of mental and physical health and financial stress to determine how productive they are at work.

According to Robert Yang, one of the research assistants involved with the study, the results showed that even mild insomnia has a profound impact on how productive people are at work:

In a real-world sample of about 1,000 people, those who were sleeping less, and those who were not getting good quality sleep, were actually at a disadvantage when it comes to productivity. This is further evidence that sleep is not wasted time — it’s wisely invested time!

In our work-obsessed, “time is money” culture, it’s often believed that sleep is the enemy of getting more work done. It turns out, though, that the opposite is true. By sacrificing sleep for work, you can essentially be shooting yourself in the foot, as you’ll be less productive in those extra hours of work as you would have in a normal work day after having gotten sufficient sleep. Given that the majority of Americans regularly have nightmares about their jobs, though, maybe this sleeplessness/low productivity relationship is a vicious cycle: poor productivity at work leads to stress, which in turn causes insomnia or poor sleep, which then causes people to be even less productive. Are work and healthy sleep incompatible for some people?

Brett Tingley

Brett Tingley is a writer and musician from the mountains of Western North Carolina. Contact him at [email protected]

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