While many are happy to take an “extra” hour of sleep Monday, Nov. 6, a new book by University of Oregon associate professor of management David Wagner and others builds on his thought provoking case for ending Daylight Saving Time, delving deeper into the other ways a good night’s sleep makes for a safer, happier, more productive world.
In Work and Sleep, Wagner, and his coeditors Christopher Barnes of Foster School of Business at the University of Washington, Julian Barling, and Erica Carlton bring together work by experts in the field to examine the many ways poor sleep hinders productivity, job performance, logic, and satisfaction. Wagner’s chapters primarily address the impact of sleep on wellness and the work-life interface.
Earlier studies by Wagner and Barnes looked at task performance and safety. In them, the authors assert that the 40 minutes or so of sleep most people lose when their body clock is trying to catch up after setting the clocks ahead in spring can lead to idleness at work, lack of awareness in moral judgment situations, and even on-the-job injuries. In one study, miners returning to work the Monday after turning the clock back suffered a 6 percent increase in injuries, which translated into a staggering 65 percent increase in lost workdays.
“It suggests these were really gruesome injuries,” Wagner said.
In another study, Wagner found white collar workers returning the Monday after DST spent additional time “cyberloafing,” or checking personal email and surfing the web for non-work purposes. Though not a physical threat, the latter does pose as a threat to a firm’s bottom line, costing millions in lost productivity.
In another study Wagner and colleagues, including lead author and Lundquist PhD candidate Jeff Gish, recruited 80 Lundquist College students and found that students who stayed up all night were less able to identify good opportunities when compared to well-rested students. Gish and Wagner asked half of the students to sleep regularly, and the other half to play board games and complete other activities all night. In the morning, they asked both groups to evaluate several startup opportunities submitted as a part of the college’s New Venture Championship. Students who got a healthy amount of shut-eye tended to choose the same investment opportunities as the NVC’s panel of experts. However, students who took part in the “all-nighter” chose the ventures the experts deemed too risky for investment.
“They were unable to weed out the bad bets,” Wagner said. “One can imagine how being unable to distinguish between good ideas and logically unsound ones could be problematic.”
In other words—we humans need sleep. Yet many of us just aren’t getting it.
In another finding mentioned in the book, those who work late tend to “borrow” time from their sleep bank, not from other areas of their life.
“Time is a finite resource, people ‘borrow’ time from sleep to meet increasing work and family demands,” the authors noted.
This, in turn, creates a cycle of sleepiness at work, which leads to job dissatisfaction, which can lead to sleepless nights, among other woes.
Overall, the authors argue that a lack of sleep can have tremendous impact on one’s performance (work) and social (non-work, non-sleep) functionality—both of which are essential to wellness and overall happiness.
But not everyone is running on a deficit of Zzzs. Wagner is thrilled to see organizations and the media starting to take the matter of good sleep seriously. He points to Arianna Huffington—who seriously injured herself after passing out at her computer—and her subsequent Sleep Revolution movement, and others for bringing healthy sleep habits to the fore.
“Sleep is not a luxury,” Wagner said. “It’s as important as oxygen.”