In Insights & Ideas

A recent study by Harvard Medical School is shedding some light on how sleep-deprived workers are affecting U.S. businesses. According to a New York Times article, a third of American workers are not getting enough sleep, and it’s costing businesses about $63.2 billion in lost productivity (1).

The irony is that it seems technology (which is supposed to make us more productive, right?), may be largely to blame for our sleepless nights.

“The blue light emitted by [laptops, iPads, and smartphones] devices interferes with melatonin production, and sends your body the message that it’s daytime, perking you up just as you should be winding down.”

Sleep working stats at a glance:

  • 74% of workers over 30 who report not getting adequate sleep say that sleepiness affects their work
  • People with insomnia reported significantly higher levels of presenteeism (lower productivity while at work)
  • Workers with college degrees or more education were least likely to report short sleep duration
  • Workers with insomnia lost an average of 7.8 days of work performance per year due to presenteeism related directly to sleep problems

Follow these tips to get a good night’s sleep:

  • Turn off or ignore electronic devices at least an hour before you go to bed
  • If you find it hard to ignore emails, an organized inbox can help avoid stress. The majority of messages probably do not require an immediate response anyway. And by responding to emails after hours, you’re actually encouraging people to email you more often.
  • Remove light distractions in your bedroom, such as television or outside light, when it’s time to sleep
  • Get some sunlight – many of us go to work and come home in the dark. Get out of the office during your lunch hour
  • Stick to a schedule to encourage to stabilize your circadian rhythm
  • Exercise regularly (this should be a no brainer these days!)
  • Avoid caffeine, large meals and alcohol before bedtime

If you find it difficult to unplug at night, just remember that there are long-term gains to be had, such as increased productivity and job performance. Force yourself to go to bed early for the first few days and eventually you’ll get used to it.

1) The Wall Street Journal, “Go Ahead, Hit the Snooze Button,” Careers, 2013
2) The Wall Street Journal, “Give It a Rest: Tips for Improving Sleep,” Careers, 2013
3) National Sleep Foundation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and “Insomnia and the Performance of U.S. Workers,” Sleep, 2011
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