Many Grouchy, Error-Prone Workers Just Need More Sleep

Source Yuki Noguchi
April 25, 2016

Hey! Wake up! Need another cup of coffee?

Join the club. Apparently about a third of Americans are sleep-deprived. And their employers are probably paying for it, in the form of mistakes, productivity loss, accidents and increased health insurance costs.

A recent Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report found a third of Americans get less sleep than the recommended seven hours a night. Another survey by Accountemps, an accounting services firm, put that number at nearly 75 percent in March. Bill Driscoll, Accountemps' regional president in the greater Boston area, says some sleepy accountants even admitted it caused them to make costly mistakes.

"One person deleted a project that took 1,000 hours to put together," Driscoll says. "Another person missed a decimal point on an estimated payment and the client overpaid by $1 million.

Oops.

William David Brown, a sleep psychologist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School and author of Sleeping Your Way to the Top, says Americans are sacrificing more and more sleep every year. Fatigue is cumulative, he says, and missing the equivalent of one night's sleep is like having a blood alcohol concentration of about 0.1 — above the legal limit to drive.

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"About a third of your employees in any big company are coming to work with an equivalent impairment level of being intoxicated," Brown says.
He says lack of sleep affects brain function, memory, heart health and makes people prone to depression and diabetes. That's why people with an "insomnia" diagnosis are twice as likely to miss work, Brown says, than somebody without the diagnosis.
 
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