Organisational effects of Sleep

Published on December 1, 2021.

Less than two weeks ago I launched a one week mini-survey on LinkedIn. 71% of respondents Agreed or Fully Agreed with the statement “I often get less than 7 hours of sleep when I have a lot to do at work". This is not surprising as the most commonly reported cause of stress is high workloads and one way to deal with the workload is to work more and sleep less.

But what does the lack of sleep do to your employees and your organisation?

Most adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night in order to be fully functional. In fact, only about 1.5% of people have a genetic mutation which makes them need less than 7 hours of sleep. Hence, if more than 1.5% of your employees say that they need less sleep, they only serve to confirm one big research finding:

People who are sleep deprived,

lack the ability to accurately assess

how much the lack of sleep affects them.

In fact, research has shown that our cognitive abilities, such as reaction time; memory; and communication skills, start to decline after 10 hours of wakefulness and after 17 hours of wakefulness they are as impaired as if they where legally drunk^1. This research confirms that an

8 hour workday or less

makes good business scene.

Now you might think “But what about the productivity loss, a less than 8 your workday would lead to?”. Well, employees who are tired and/or fatigued will not be very productive. Just the one hour of lost sleep caused by the switch to daylight saving time causes an increase in both procrastination and cyberloafing^2. In fact, fatigue-related productivity loss is estimated to cost employers in the USA

US$ 2500

per employee per year

when it is equally distributed across the population of actively employed (fatigued or not). That sum is only taking into account the lower work output, the impaired work performance and higher accident rates that sleep disturbance causes.

However, there are other negative effects that lack of sleep have, that will affect your organisation and its business climate. Due to the hormone imbalance sleep deprived persons get their personality is affected. They are a lot more likely to lack self-control and engage in unethical behaviour^3 such as theft; sexual harassment; false performance reporting; and hostile verbal and non-verbal behaviour (not including physical contact) than they would be if they where well rested. In fact, just over two hours of less sleep cause a

10% decline in moral awareness

and an increase in unethical behaviour

among your employees.

Other effects the lack of sleep has is a decreased ability to make good business decisions and increased impulsivity. Also, sleep deprived individuals are perceived as less charismatic which can negatively affect customer relations as well as the relation between managers and their direct reports.

As an employer it will make good business sense for you to protect your organisation and the well-being of your employees by introducing measurements to help employees disconnect from work in time to get a good night's sleep.

If you would like to find out how much lack of sleep is affecting your organisation and what kind of interventions that might suit your business: Get in touch with PRO Services today.

  1. When having been awake for 17 hours cognitive abilities are as impaired as if one have 0.5 (per mille) alcohol in their blood and that would put them over the legal limit for driving in all European countries except the UK.

  2. By “cyberloafing” is meant to spend work hours and company internet access to check personal e-mails or visit websites not related to their work.

  3. By “unethical behaviour” is meant illegal or morally unacceptable behaviour.


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