How Sleep Loss Affects your Job

sleep lossRoyal Oak and Birmingham, MI

Insufficient sleep is commonplace in American society. In fact, recent studies indicate that more than a quarter of American adults report receiving fewer than the recommended seven hours of sleep per night for more than 15 nights out of 30. Sleep deprivation is usually considered a private condition that affects the well-being of the individual sufferer, but lack of sleep was indicated as a factor contributing to such disasters as the nuclear meltdowns at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl and the wreck of the Exxon tanker Valdez. 

On a smaller scale, insufficient sleep can have consequences in the workplace and on an individual’s job performance. What are these job-related repercussions of sleep loss?


Lack of sleep can, first and foremost, cause a sleepy feeling that is very difficult to ignore and extremely difficult to fight off. A 2009 study found that close to 40 percent of Americans found themselves unintentionally falling asleep during the daytime. Even more common are so-called “microsleeps”, defined by one academic study as periods of between .5 to 15 seconds characterized by a complete failure to respond to stimulus accompanied by slow eye closures.

Microsleep episodes can have results ranging from wildly dangerous (such as when they occur in professional pilots, drivers, aircraft controllers, or process workers in a plant or factory) to simply annoying (trying to remember a train of thought while composing an e-mail, or asking a coworker to repeat what was just said in a meeting). At a minimum, exhaustion can add seconds and minutes to tasks, resulting in a loss of productivity.

Memory and concentration

Even without lapsing into microsleep, insufficient sleep can make concentration more difficult even when a person is theoretically wide awake. Concentration difficulties can lead to errors or prolong the time it takes to do even simple tasks, which can result in a loss of productivity.

Furthermore, lack of adequate sleep can lead to poor decision-making. A 2013 study suggested that sleep-deprived people are less likely to be motivated and especially less inclined to learn new tasks.

Sleep deprivation can also affect memory, with consequences ranging from bad, such as forgetting a task or deadline, to mildly irritating, such as forgetting a password or where something was placed. This leads to a loss of productivity and a lowering of performance.

Workplace attitude

Sleep loss can also have a significant impact on a person’s general demeanor. It can, for example, lower the threshold for frustration and irritability, influencing how the sufferer behaves around co-workers and customers. Sleep-deprived persons might also be more susceptible to underlying mental conditions like depression and anxiety, which can diminish the ability to perform tasks and lead to a loss of productivity.


Lack of sleep is also directly related to a heightened tendency to become ill and can worsen existing physical ailments. A 2009 study showed that persons getting less than seven hours of sleep were approximately three times more likely to develop the common cold, potentially missing work to recover.

Prolonged insufficient sleep has also been shown to have a direct bearing on hypertension and coronary heart disease, which can lead to heart attack and stroke. It can also lead to insulin resistance in diabetics. These outcomes can be fatal at worst and lead to hospitalizations at best, both of which cause extended absences from work.

Proper sleep and work

Whether it manifests itself in a truly horrific incident, such as a car crash or industrial accident, or as something merely more inconvenient, such as taking an unduly sharp tone with a co-worker, lack of sleep can play a role in poor job performance.

What can help someone who perhaps did not sleep enough the night before? If possible, a quick nap during lunch can do wonders for concentration. Caffeine, too, can help with focus and alertness. Recent studies suggest combining the two. Sleep reduces the amount of a chemical called adenosine, which causes sleepiness. Adenosine competes with caffeine in the brain, so coffee before a nap simultaneously reduces sleepiness and allows for the caffeine to start to work.

Coffee and naps can help with the effects of insufficient sleep. A better route, however, is to address its cause. Making sure to increase sleep can eliminate all these difficulties. If they persist even with 7 to 8 hours of sleep, it might be wise to investigate if sleep apnea has developed. If so, sleep apnea can be treated with surgery, machines, oral appliances, and even lifestyle changes.

Sleeping more can help one give the very best effort at work, which can lead to handsome rewards in the long run.

Hartrick Dentistry provides dental treatments for patients of all ages in the Royal Oak area. Dr. Nancy Hartrick has nearly 30 years of dental experience. Schedule an appointment online or by calling 248-712-1149.

Posted in Sleep Apnea