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As little as 16 minutes of lost sleep can hinder job performance: study

Photo: MangoStar_Studio/iStockphoto

Tampa, FL — A relatively small disruption in sleep routines could leave workers distracted during the next workday, according to the results of a recent study from the University of South Florida.

For eight straight days, researchers surveyed 130 middle-aged information technology workers who had at least one school-aged child. Participants were asked about multiple sleep characteristics (e.g., bedtimes, wake-up times, sleep duration, sleep quality and the amount of time it takes to fall asleep) and the frequency of experiencing off-task and distracting thoughts during the workday.

Results showed that when respondents slept 16 fewer minutes or woke up 19 minutes earlier than usual, they reported more “cognitive interference” such as distraction or subpar judgment. That same association wasn’t as significant on non-work days.

“Findings from this study provide empirical evidence for why workplaces need to make more efforts to promote their employees’ sleep,” Soomi Lee, lead author and an assistant professor in the School of Aging Studies at USF, said in an April 23 press release. “Good sleepers may be better performers at work due to greater ability to stay focused and on-task with fewer errors and interpersonal conflicts.”


The study was published online March 22 in the journal Sleep Health.

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