Why You Should Pay Attention to Sleep

StayWell Newsletter

“It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.” –John Steinbeck, Sweet Thursday

Reading that quote, it seems Steinbeck may have been prognosticating the findings of a recent StayWell study. Our team of researchers recently compared the productivity of employees who report too little, too much, or just the right amount of sleep, and they found that those employees who don’t get the recommended hours of sleep, or don’t feel well-rested, also report being less productive than employees who do.

Consider the chart below, which shows the average number of days absent for employees who report getting the specified hours of sleep on an average night. There’s a clear relationship here, and 7 or 8 hours of sleep seems like the best place to be.

We found a similar pattern with presenteeism. Here the term “presenteeism” refers to the percentage of time an employee is in the workplace but not working.

But some people would say that they can function very well on 5 hours of sleep, and they may be right. It’s important to consider sleep quality in addition to sleep quantity, which is why StayWell’s health assessment has a question that asks people how often they feel tired.

It turns out that people who feel tired more often report more absence and more presenteeism, on average, than their non-tired counterparts. The charts below demonstrate this relationship.

So why should you pay attention to sleep? Because it’s fairly likely that a sizeable portion of your employees are getting too little or too much, or are often tired despite getting the right amount of sleep, and their productivity is suffering because of it. This is a difficult problem to solve, but having the “committee of sleep” work on it, as Steinbeck suggested, might be one way to help.

Contact a StayWell representative for more information about new upcoming releases on the topic of sleep in our Self-Directed Coaching and Learning Series modules.

By Stefan Gingerich, MS, senior research analyst
Check out Stefan’s blog series on sleep, the first installation is titled: “When counting sheep doesn’t work”