Businesses in the U.S. lose roughly $411 billion annually because their workers ae either absent or “groggy in the office,” according to a study conducted by the RAND Corporation, which also found that "if individuals who normally sleep under six hours slept even just one or two hours more, over $226.4 billion could be added to the U.S. economy."
RAND’s research also linked sleep deprivation to lower workplace productivity, resulting in “a significant amount of working days being lost each year” with the U.S. annually losing around 1.2 million working days due to insufficient sleep—not to mention untold millions more being lost due to sleep deprivation-driven “presenteeism,” the company noted.
“Too many business leaders and other professionals don't get the kind of restorative and rehabilitative sleep required to optimize mental clarity, focus, ideation, awareness, productivity and overall job performance,” noted Alvaro Vaselli, founder and CEO of Nuvanna.com, an online retailer of “sleep products,” including mattresses.
“The result is egregious opportunity loss relative to realizing one’s full potential. With these and other staggering sleep statistics, there is a demonstrative and urgent need for change,” Vaselli noted in a statement. “Yet many sleep-related issues are extraordinarily easy to rectify, and can have a relatively immediate impact on a business bottom line. Curating improvement in this all-important aspect of one’s life is a leader’s fiduciary duty to the organization as I see it.”
He added that research conducted by Circadian, a workplace safety solutions provider, found that “sleep deprivation” among workers is an issue that is “often ignored, yet frequently the root cause of decreased productivity, accidents, incidents and mistakes which cost companies billions of dollars each year.”
Circadian said 10 of the top sleep deprivation dangers in the workplace include: decreased communication, deterioration of performance, increased "distractibility," driving impairment, an increase in the number of errors made by sleep-deprived individuals, poor cognitive memory and assimilation, poor mood appropriate behavior, greater risk-taking behavior, the inability to make necessary adjustments when needed.
To counteract those potential problems, Nuvanna’s Vaselli argued that business leaders need to take more proactive steps to encourage workers to focus on “quality sleep” and why that is a key ingredient to the overall success of the business:
Mental Clarity: Sleep is critical to achieving a high-level of “mental clarity,” which cannot be obtained “in a body that is running on fumes,” Vaselli said. “When people have slept less, it’s a little like looking at the world through dark glasses,” added Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, director of the Ohio State Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research. “The well-rested brain versus the sleepy brain will accomplish much more but will also be happier and less stressed while doing so.” When groggy and sleep-deprived during the day, in addition to one’s overall quantity of work suffering, the quality of work will also be worse than someone who consistently receives eight or more hours of deep sleep. Leaders who make a commitment to deep, uninterrupted sleep for eight or more hours report more focus, more energy and more motivation than their counterparts.
Better Sleep = Better Temperament = Better Relationships = Greater Success: A survey of business leaders found that those who reported themselves to be “well-rested” also report feeling happier and less stressed than their counterparts. Relationships are major components to winning in the business world. “Leaders who are well rested can model positive, healthy relationships with their employees, which trickles down to their customers,” Vaselli said. “By giving one’s body the sleep it needs to perform optimally, CEOs are able to give 100% of themselves in their personal and professional relationships which helps relieve stress, maintains positive mental health and leads to a more balanced work/leisure lifestyle.”
The Productivity Illusion: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos once noted that “making a small number of key decisions well is more important than making a large number of decisions. If you shortchange your sleep, you might be a couple of extra ‘productive’ hours, but that productivity might be an illusion.” Thus when discussing the difference between interactions and decisions, quality is more important than quantity, Vaselli added. Thus reserving more time for rest and sleep is what can truly improve productivity, he emphasized; a theorem proved in part by research on basketball players conducted by Cheri Mah with the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Laboratory. Mah found that basketball players at the elite college level were able to improve their on-the-court performance by increasing their amount of total sleep time, demonstrated by an increase of 9% in their free-throw shooting and an increase by 9.2% in their three-point shooting.
Improved Sleep Helps Leaders Start Their Day the Right Way: While the following habits may seem trivial, Vaselli said that, when added together, they help create a “leader mentality.” For exampling, starting the day early is really only truly successful, though, with a reasonable, consistent bedtime routine if one wants optimal results. “Upon rising, for the first 60 minutes, don’t engage in any work-related activities such as checking email, social media or even watching the news. Instead wake your brain up gradually with meditation, a healthy breakfast and exercise before jumping into the business of the day. Once you have successfully taken the time to nourish your body, it’s time to start knocking out the mindful assignments before the phone starts ringing and people vie for one’s attention helps leaders maintain that sense of accomplishment and productivity.
Impulse control and caffeine avoidance: While people assume they perform better with caffeine, it’s actually detrimental to most systems in one’s body because of its spikes, valleys and addictive quality – Vaselli said people actually under-perform when relying on caffeine. Related to the caffeine addiction, which creates "jitteriness," agitation and irritability when consumed in high quantities and inconsistently throughout the day, those with sleep deprivation are usually more impatient and make poorer decisions than their counterparts. A study from UC Berkeley “found that after a poor night's sleep, the parts of the brain associated with automatic behavior were extra active, while the frontal lobes which affect self-control were more inhibited.” Therefore, leaders who are sleep deprived are more likely to respond instinctively rather than making conscious, healthy decisions. Another study from Clemson University found that people who didn’t get enough sleep had a “higher risk of being impulsive and distracted, as well as (made) poor decisions.”