On average, we spend 26 years asleep over the course of our lifetime.
Science suggests that adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep every night – and for the most part, Americans are listening. In 2015, a report found that the average adult in the U.S. slept for eight hours and 50 minutes each night, up 13 minutes from a decade before.
But what happens when we ignore the recommended amount of sleep? When work and life get in the way, and we find ourselves staying up too late the night before or waking up earlier in the morning to get ahead of the day?
Studies have shown the adverse effects of not getting enough sleep on our bodies and our minds, but how does it affect our behavior at work? We polled over 2,000 employees to understand how they feel their job performance is affected by a lack of sleep. We then looked at which professions get the best worst sleep in the U.S. Curious to see what we discovered? Read on to find out.
The Effects of Bad Sleep
Getting a bad night’s rest doesn’t end in the bedroom. The physical and mental effects of not sleeping well or not sleeping enough can impact your mind, mood, appetite, and immune system. And these are the kind of effects you’re likely to carry around with you all day – even after you’ve left the house and gone on to school or work.
We asked over 2,000 people who reported having poor sleep quality over the last month how they felt their sleep patterns affected their work routines. On average, we found that people who said they didn’t sleep well for an entire month were 4.5 times more likely to feel irritable at work three or more times a week, and almost five times more likely to feel irritable at work five times a week.
Respondents were also over three times more likely to be late to work three or more days each month, and almost three times more likely to be rude their boss. Combined, these effects don’t exactly spell “Employee of the Month.”
While less common, those who slept poorly for an entire month were twice as likely to be rude to their co-workers and almost twice as likely to fall asleep at work.
The Value of Rest
While those who didn’t sleep well over the past month were far more likely to be in a bad mood at work, those who did sleep well over the course of a month were nearly five times more likely to be more motivated at work. And although participants not getting good sleep reported a much higher likelihood of irritability, those who did sleep well were far more likely to find inspiration and motivation at work than those who didn’t.
Good sleepers were also almost twice as likely to say they were satisfied with their job. While getting a good night’s rest isn’t all that it takes to feel content with your professional aspirations, it can help you avoid anxiety or depression that research shows can co-occur with sleep-deprived people.
Respondents who reported positive sleep patterns were also 1.5 times more like to be satisfied with their job performance, further emphasizing the benefits of being well-rested on your personal and professional life.
What Impacts Your Work
According to almost 40 percent of survey participants, getting a good night’s rest was the most important factor in their ability to perform their best at work. Whether that was productivity, communication, or inspiration, getting a good night’s sleep meant they were able to take on the day and feel good about their accomplishments. Research has shown that getting quality sleep can help improve learning and problem-solving cognitive functions, helping people feel better about what they’re able to get done at work.
Just over 30 percent told us that avoiding interruptions helped them do their best work, and just over 20 percent told us that drinking coffee helped them focus enough to get things done and feel good about it.
Roughly 10 percent of participants told us that asking their co-workers for help or talking to their manager helped them to get their highest level of work done.
Quality of Sleep, by Job Type
Our research also showed that employees of every profession did not report the same sleeping patterns.
Those who worked in the agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting industry rated their quality of sleep higher than any profession studied. While some of these responses may have come from professionals working in corporate extensions of these fields, research continues to show the benefits of spending time outside on sleeping patterns and emotional behavior.
Additionally, those in the real estate, rentals, and leasing industry, as well as the marketing and advertising sector, rated their quality of sleep higher than most other job types.
On the other side of the bed, those who worked in publishing reported the worst overall sleep quality. On a scale of one (worst) to five (best), employees rated their sleep throughout any given week less than a three overall. Publishers ranked among wholesale and retail employees, as well as homemakers, for the worst sleep of any industry.
Professional Sleep Schedules
We asked employees in multiple industries what was most likely to keep them up at night.
For members of the armed forces, the biggest factor keeping them from getting a good night’s sleep and feeling well-rested was their thoughts about the next day. Research has shown that those in the military are regularly sleep-deprived, and while the average adult needs between seven and nine hours of sleep, typical military culture suggests that four hours is all they might need – or get.
A sense of anxiety was listed by those in the communications sector, including telecommunications and broadcasting and journalism. This can turn into a cyclical routine. A sense of anxiety keeps you awake at night, and not getting enough sleep throughout the evening can lead to even more anxiety throughout the day.
Further, pain and physical discomfort was the top reason for interrupted sleep reported by those in the agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting industry as well other manual labor positions like transportation and warehousing.
Those in government and public administration, however, reported their pets as the most common disturbance of their sleep, and those in legal said their partner’s snoring and moving around made it the hardest to fall asleep.
If you’re not getting enough sleep at night, the odds are you’re feeling it. Whether you’re irritable at work or anxiety or depression follows you throughout the week, your health depends on a good night’s rest. Even your immune system is adversely affected when your sleep schedule is out of whack.
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We surveyed over 2,000 Americans on their work and sleep habits to see how likely they were to act a certain way at work depending on the quality of their sleep.
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This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.