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Build Your Career Office Life

Sleep Tight: How Restless Nights Are Hurting Your Career

Sleep Tight: How Restless Nights Are Hurting Your Career
Credit: Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

Not getting a good night's sleep could put your career in jeopardy, new research suggests.

A study from Erasmus University's Rotterdam School of Management in the Netherlands reports that following bad nights of sleep, employees who displayed poor behavior previously, such as taking longer breaks than allowed, leaving early without permission, or stealing, are more likely to act out again.

Laura Giurge, one of the study's researchers and a graduate student at Erasmus University, said poor behavior in the workplace often stems from selfish impulses that are not kept in check by self-control.

"It is known that this ability to regulate our impulses can be undermined by having had a bad night – not necessarily just by the amount of sleep but also by impaired sleep quality," Giurge said in a statement.

For the study, researchers asked working professional how well they slept for 10 consecutive days. They were also asked to rate how much "unwanted behavior," like taking long lunches or being rude to co-workers, they exhibited. [See Related Story:  Nap Time? Sleeping at Work Boosts Productivity]

The study's authors found that, in general, the quality of sleep the previous night influenced the following day's behavior. In addition, those workers who acted poorly one day were more likely to continue that bad behavior the next day, particularly if they slept badly during the night connecting the two days. 

Giurge said the study shows that the display of unwanted behavior is not a fixed character trait.

"It can vary from day to day, even within the same person," Giurge said. "Whatever the reason for starting it, a night of poor sleep can make it harder for someone to stop doing it, especially among people with a low moral identity. Tiredness apparently can make it harder for people to overcome the feeling that they have failed at being a good and moral person and, as a result, do not try again the next day."

This type of destructive cycle could explain why unethical behavior is so prominent in many organizations, according to Giurge. This type of poor behavior is estimated to cost U.S. companies up to $200 billion per year.

Acting out isn't the only negative that can come from a poor night's sleep. Surveys of 2,000 Americans from Amerisleep revealed that bad sleep can lead to irritability as well as not being motivated at work and being dissatisfied with their job and job performance.
Specifically, employees who reported poor sleep quality over the past month were 4.7 times more likely to feel irritable at work at least five times a week.

Additionally, those who said they got good sleep over the past month were 4.9 times more likely to find it easy to get motivated at work, 1.9 times more likely to be satisfied with their job and 1.5 times more likely to be satisfied with their job performance.

Overall, the industries with employees getting the best sleep each night are agriculture; forestry, fish and hunting; real estate, rentals and leasing; marketing and advertising; construction; and manufacturing.

The industries that reported the lowest quality of sleep were publishing, wholesale and retail, homemaker, telecommunications, and transportation and warehousing.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer who has nearly 15 years' experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.

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