Sleep and Productivity: Know the Relation

Topics: Healthy Sleep, sleep deprivation

”I’m always on the go. I love doing things until I hit rock bottom. Then I need my 12 hours of sleep, and I’m on the go again.”

Sleep and productivity are two aspects of life which cannot be ignored or undermined. They go hand in hand for a fulfilling life. The value of adequate sleep for one’s productivity is vital and the same has been proved over and again.

Poor and inadequate sleep results in a variety of cognitive deficits. Sleep deprivation strongly impairs human functioning which translates into inability to maintain attention, decreased alertness, delayed reaction time, dulled perception, altered emotional processing and inability to think clearly. This has a negative impact of sleep on productivity.

Sleep Deprivation affects economic productivity!

Evidence implicates negative aspects of sleep deprivation on cognitive or motor performance. This becomes more important in those involved in creative, strategic operations and job profiles that require constant learning and brainstorming.

An analysis conducted in Australia pointed towards high direct and indirect costs associated with sleep disorders. According to an estimate, the financial costs of suffering are around 1.55% while non-financial costs represent 4.6% of the Australian gross domestic product.

In the United States, the statistics indicate that loss of productivity to the extent of US$ 136.4 billion can be attributed to sleep deprivation. However, the data in India is still scant, which could be an indication of undermining the impact of sleep disorders in our country.

Is only economic productivity at stake?

Safety is also at stake due to sleep deprivation. A Central Road Research Institute (CRRI) report indicated that around 40% of road traffic accidents on the Lucknow-Agra highway can be attributed to sleep-deprived drivers.

An Italian study by Garbarino et al observed that sleep disorders resulted in more than doubling of work accidents compared to otherwise healthy individuals. Workers suffering from sleep deprivation leading to excessive daytime sleepiness are twice as likely to injure themselves while at work than those without sleep disorders.

Occupations such as heavy machine operations and vehicle driving are particularly at a greater risk and safety hazard if sleep deprived. Several studies conducted on sleep apnea and occupational hazards have implicated that this disorder is common in commercial drivers. This puts road safety at risk leading to an increased number of road traffic accidents.

The indifference and underdiagnoses associated with sleep disorders can be serious health and safety concerns for society as a whole.

Impact of sleep deprivation on Social interaction and behaviour at the workplace

Mood changes associated with sleep deprivation are a major cause of troublesome interpersonal interaction and may destroy the positive work culture of otherwise harmonious organisation. These mood changes may also lead to unusual quietness and social withdrawal which affects productivity.

Pilcher et al noted that sleep deprivation negatively impacts the individual’s response to positive stimuli which could result in a more focused response to perceived negative events. As a result, there is a greater possibility of misjudgement, miscommunication and tension between coworkers.


Experts believe that sleep deprivation is associated with greater risky decision-making. This could lead to a compromise of safety and decisions where losses outweigh the benefits. Excessive sleepiness is also found to be associated with aggressive behaviour, mood disorders and absenteeism.

Lack of sleep is a health hazard!

The association of good sleep with good health is proven time and again. Long-term sleep deprivation is found to be associated with health problems like weight gain, blood sugar dysregulation, indigestion & gastric problems, heart diseases, etc. This negative effect on many health-related physiological indices suggests that helping workers prioritize good sleep habits is essential for promoting productivity in the workers and long-term organizational success.

Promoting Healthy Sleep in Workers!

Sleep quality and duration have a direct impact on the functioning of employees on many levels. Developing and promoting healthy habits for proper sleep hygiene is imperative for the productivity of an individual and organisation. It is recommended by experts to have 7-9 hours of good sleep to maintain a productive and healthy life. Introduction and promotion of healthy sleep habits at the organisational level would definitely be associated with good productivity and organisational growth.

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