By Sarah Cummings

Not so long ago it would be fair to say that the average boss would not give two hoots if an employee got their doctor-recommended eight hours sleep or not. As long as they turned up to work on time and didn’t fall asleep at their desk, they probably considered it none of their business.

Those days are behind us. Or at least they should be. We now know more than ever about the hidden costs sleep deprivation can have on the efficiency of staff, the role it plays on employees health and the economic impact it can have on the economy as a whole.

In a study conducted by RAND it was determined that insufficient sleep directly lead to 1.2 million missed days of work a year in America, costing the US economy a staggering $411 billion a year. That’s 2% of the nation’s entire GDP.

Let’s sick for now the health impact of missed sleep and say for argument’s sake that a sleep deprived employee does make it into work, how exactly can their tiredness impact their work performance. Read on below to find out…

Sleep and accuracy

Throughout the course of the day our synapses produce a chemical offshoot known as adenosine, this gradual builds up and helps to make us drowsy come nightfall. Adenosine is then flushed from the brain while we snooze allowing us to wake up with a sharp mind.

If we sleep badly or suffer from broken sleep the adenosine isn’t fully cleared from our system come morning time and we wake up groggy.

This mental grogginess impacts our overall cognitive performance. What this means is that sleepy workers aren’t as mentally sharp as their would be with a good night’s rest behind them. Synapses don’t fire as quickly as they should and this leads to unnecessary mistakes.

Obviously every employee will make mistakes from time to time, nobody is infallible but errors due to sleep deprivation are completely avoidable. If that worker had slept better, their work wouldn’t be as sloppy. Mistakes equal wasted time which means wasted money.

To discover how to help yourself or your employees get better sleep each and every night, check out what the experts have to say over at the ’Sleep Advisor’ blog.

Sleep and focus

At any given task a sleep-deprived individual can perform just as adequately as a well-rested colleague, that is until they are both distracted. Say the phone rings or a there is a knock on the door, the tired employee will find it an uphill struggle to refocus whereas the healthy individual will be able to snap straight back into the job at hand.

The ability to recover from distractions is essential to being successful in any workplace and fMRI scans have shown that the areas of the brain which help an individual to focus massively underperform when tired.

Sleep and workplace harmony

We all know how it feels to have had a bad night’s sleep, we wake up with a bleary eyes, a banging head, we’re irritable and prone to rapid mood swings. The result of this can be that we overreact at the slightest provocation and snap at friends, family and even colleagues.

The reason for this emotional instability has to do with a nut-shaped cluster of nuclei in the middle brain known as the amygdala. Often referred to as our emotional control centre recent studies have shown that the amygdala can become upto 60% more active when the brain is tired. Meaning it’s more likely to trigger an emotional response to a stimuli that typically wouldn’t even see us bat an eyelid.

Add to this findings from another study that indicates the tired brain has considerable difficulty reading facial cues in others. Facial cues being the driving force between our ability to show empathy.

Being overly sensitive and unable to empathise with others are obviously not desirable characteristics most bosses look for in their staff. Office harmony depends on multiple different people with very different personalities interacting effectively, this is obviously hampered if certain individuals are irritable and insensitive.

A workplace in which just one member of staff is sleep deprived can lead to disharmony, imagine one in which every member of staff is sleep deprived and you will have a waking nightmare.

Well, there you go, just a few ways in which sleep deprivation can impact work performance and disrupt office harmony. And that’s just for starters. The list is almost endless. I didn’t even touch on the myriad ways poor sleep can impact the mental and physical health of employees.

My top tip, if you truly want your business to succeed, do everything in your power to ensure you get sufficient sleep yourself and everything in your influence to encourage your workforce to do so too. Your bottom line will thank you in the long run.

Hey there, I’m Sarah Cummings. I’m addicted to sleep. It’s my drug of choice. When I’m not in bed snoozing away, I’m researching and writing about it. Along with my colleagues at the Sleep Advisor I preach the good rest gospel every day. We firmly believe that sleep is the best natural performance enhancer available. And it’s completely free!