Losing just 16 minutes sleep can ruin your work day

Just 16 minutes less sleep can play havoc with the working day [Photo: Getty]
Just 16 minutes less sleep can play havoc with the working day [Photo: Getty]

We’ve all been tempted to stay up for just one more episode of ‘Fleabag’, but the win of avoiding next-day spoilers could come at a work day cost.

Losing just a small amount of sleep (16 minutes) compared to your usual amount of shut-eye could play havoc with your productivity and stress levels at work the following day.

That’s according to a new study, published in the journal Sleep Health.

Researchers at the University of South Florida surveyed 130 healthy employees working in Information Technology, tracking their sleep and their performance at work.

Participants reported that when they slept just 16 minutes less than usual, it impacted their focus, judgement and ability to process information.

And this drop in performance had a knock-on effect on stress levels, which ultimately made the employees less productive.

Researchers also tracked participants’ sleep habits at the weekend, but found, unsurprisingly, that the consequences of losing sleep weren’t as obvious when participants weren’t at work the next day.

Commenting on the findings lead author Soomi Lee said: “These cyclical associations reflect that employees’ sleep is vulnerable to daily cognitive stress and also a contributor to cognitively stressful experiences.

“Findings from this study provide empirical evidence for why workplaces need to make more efforts to promote their employees’ sleep.

“Good sleepers may be better performers at work due to greater ability to stay focused an on-task with fewer errors and interpersonal conflicts.”

READ MORE: Common sleep myths keeping you awake

Staying up for an extra 16 minutes could have a knock on effect on your work day [Photo: Getty]
Staying up for an extra 16 minutes could have a knock on effect on your work day [Photo: Getty]

And don’t be thinking you can catch up on those precious 16 minutes with a bumper lie-in at the weekend.

Another sleep study revealed that while you might feel better after getting extra ZZZs at the weekend, it is not enough to reduce the health risks of insufficient sleep during the week.

This isn’t the first time it’s been suggested that loss of sleep has a knock-on effect on the working day.

A recent study from UCLA has found that when you are sleep deprived, it makes it tougher for your brain cells to communicate with each other, which can lead to temporary mental lapses that affect how you remember, interact with and perceive your environment.

READ MORE: Surprising things that are stopping you from sleeping

Further research found that “Night owls”, aka people who are late to bed and late to rise, may be at a disadvantage in jobs with typical working hours of 9am to 5pm.

While there is a proven genetic basis for the night owl/morning lark theory, many traditional workplaces still insist on working hours of roughly 9am to 5pm – which makes life especially difficult for night owls, according to the latest research.

The results revealed that at all time points throughout the day, the morning larks outperformed the evening owls in tests – suggesting the latter group continue to be at a disadvantage throughout the day.

Study authors suggested more flexible working hours could benefit society as a whole.

And it seems as if some schools may be catching on to the pros of later start times, with MPs debating calls for the school day to start at 10am to help tired teenagers.