Effects of Restful Sleep on Employee Performance

Studies have found that employee performance is dependent upon restful and restorative sleep.  Workers who continually lack sleep, and ultimately become sleep deprived, contribute to lost revenue due to reduced performance and productivity.  While workers may find illness as a reasonable excuse to miss work, sleepiness and fatigue are not typically considered acceptable grounds for absenteeism.

Present but fatigued workers create a separate class of reduced productivity known as presenteeism.  Presenteeism is the state when an employee is physically present but performing below normal capacity.  According to multiple studies, fatigued workers suffering from presenteeism account for over $136 billion of lost productivity every year.(1)

The major effects of fatigue in the workplace from sleep deprivation and presenteeism result in lost productivity due to the cognitive impairments linked with inadequate sleep. According to one study(2), sleep-deprived workers’ performance suffers due to inhibited cognitive functions necessary for peak performance.

Cognitive functions affected by sleep deprivation and fatigue include:

  • Attention-Intensive performance: When sleep-deprived, the brain struggles with omissions and has difficulty responding in a timely manner to stimuli
  • Cognitive Pace: The brain functions at a much slower pace when deprived of sleep
  • Short-term Recall and Working Memory: The brain’s ability to hold and manipulate new information declines
  • Learning of Cognitive Tasks: The brain struggles with the ability to acquire a new task in an efficient manner
  • Performance as Task Duration Increases: As task time extends, the brain’s ability to perform decreases—also known as “fatigue” effect

Realizing the effects of fatigue in the workplace and addressing them can help a company reduce the costs associated with lost productivity and diminished performance.

  1. Ricci, ScD, MS, J.A., et al. “Fatigue in the U.S.Workforce: Prevalence and Implications for Lost Productivity Work Time.” Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 49.1 n. Print.
  2. Goel et al. (2009). Neurocognitive consequences of sleep deprivation. Seminars in neurology, 29(4), 320-339.