1: Researchers examined towns that are similar in every way.
Except where they are located. The towns are all in the same time zone. But some are on the far western edge of the time zone. And some are on the very eastern edge of the time zone.
Meaning they have significantly different hours of daylight.
“Workers in the far western locations obtained more sunlight later into the evening, and consequently went to bed an hour later, on average, than those in the far eastern locations,” writes Matthew Walker in Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams. “However, all workers in both regions had to wake up at the same time each morning since they were all in the same time zone and on the same schedule.
“Therefore, western-dwelling workers in that time zone had less sleep opportunity time than the eastern-dwelling workers,” he writes.
What did the economists Matthew Gibson and Jeffrey Shrader learn?
“Factoring out many other potential factors and influences (e.g., regional affluence, house prices, cost of living, etc.), they found that an hour of extra sleep returned significantly higher wages in those eastern locations, somewhere in the region of 4 to 5 percent,” Matthew reports.
The bottom line? People who sleep more earn more.
2: Other researchers have looked at the impact of sleep on leadership.
“A deceptively simple but clever study tracked the sleep of supervisors across several weeks, and compared that with their leadership performance in the workplace as judged by the employees who report to them,” notes Matthew.
“The lower the quality of sleep that the supervisor reported getting from one night to the next accurately predicted poor self-control and a more abusive nature toward employees the following day, as reported by the employees themselves,” he writes.
There was another fascinating result: when the supervisor did not get enough sleep, members of their team, even if well-rested, “became less engaged in their jobs throughout that day as a consequence,” notes Matthew. “So what explains the ups and downs of a leader’s ability to effectively lead day-to-day? The amount of sleep they are getting is one clear factor.”
Other research shows: “Under-slept managers and CEOs are less charismatic and have a harder time infusing their subordinate teams with inspiration and drive,” he writes. And “unfortunately for bosses, a sleep-deprived employee will erroneously perceive a well-rested leader as being significantly less inspiring and charismatic than they truly are.”
3: Companies are beginning to take note. Procter & Gamble and Goldman Sachs offer “sleep hygiene” courses to their associates. Nike and Google have instituted a more relaxed approach to work schedules, allowing team members “to time their daily work hours to match their individual circadian rhythms.”
The large insurance company Aetna has taken it a step further, instituting “an option of bonuses for getting more sleep, based on verified sleep-tracker data. Workers who string together twenty or more seven-hour nights of sleep in a row receive a $25 per-night bonus, capped at $500.
Aetna chairman and CEO Mark Bertolini explained to Matthew: “Being present in the workplace and making better decisions has a lot to do with our business fundamentals. . . You can’t be prepared if you’re half asleep.”
The leaders at NASA have been studying the science of sleep to maximize the effectiveness of their astronauts. “They discovered that naps as short as twenty-six minutes in length still offered a 34 percent improvement in task performance and more than a 50 percent increase in overall alertness,” Matthew shares. “These results hatched the so-called NASA nap culture throughout terrestrial workers in the organization.”
Good sleep is good business.
Reflection: What is the culture at my organization around sleep? Do leaders praise those who work late into the night?
Action: Discuss with a colleague or my team.