It turns out that when we work more, we sleep less. And when we spend more time with family, we also sleep less. At least, that’s what a study recently published in Personnel Psychology suggests. The researchers’ analysis of American Time Use Survey data from more than 10,700 working adults who live with at least one other person found that every hour of extra work led to an average of 14 minutes less sleep. The same was true when comparing time spent with family; an extra hour with your loved ones shortened sleep by 14 minutes.
Fourteen minutes isn’t even a quarter of an hour yet our sleep is a precious commodity. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) suggests that we’ve cut back on our sleep so much in western industrialized society that sleep deprivation is the norm. We can get used to sleeping less than we need, but that doesn’t mean that our bodies and brains like it. Not getting enough sleep at the extreme brings on hallucinations but at a more typical level of lack, we have more subtle problems. The NINDS warns against problems with memory, learning, physical performance, social interactions, emotional control, and decision-making. Workplace studies cited by Barnes, Wagner, and Ghumman connect sleep deprivation with problems related to “self-regulation, decision making, team performance, and job satisfaction, as well as increases in unethical behavior and injuries.” Ironically, we work more and sleep less and end up hurting ourselves and our work.
It turns out that each of us has our own sleep need recipe based on genetics and environment. The National Sleep Foundation won’t attempt to prescribe a perfect amount of sleep. Start with the rule of thumb that most adults need 7 to 9 hours. Then, the non-profit organization suggests, listen to your body for what may be the easiest health test ever. Are you feeling sleepy when you should be awake? Then try more sleep. If you are still sleepy, then find plenty of research-backed advice explained in non-technical terms at the National Sleep Foundation’s website.
Barnes, C. M., Wagner, D. T. and Ghumman, S. (2012). Borrowing from Sleep to Pay Work and Family: Expanding Time-Based Conflict to the Broader Nonwork Domain. Personnel Psychology, 65: 789–819. doi: 10.1111/peps.12002
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep. Retrieved from http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/brain_basics/understanding_sleep.htm
National Sleep Foundation. How Much Sleep Do We Really Need? Retrieved from http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need