Mental Health

If you needed an excuse to stay in bed, here's a good one

A broker rests after monitoring share prices during morning trading at a securities company in Jakarta October 13, 2008. Indonesian shares slid over 5 percent on Monday after a three-day trading halt as the government raised its guarantee on bank deposits to help restore confidence in the economy in the face of the global credit crisis.    REUTERS/Dadang Tri  (INDONESIA) - RTX9HPI

Better sleep can improve workplace performance. Image: REUTERS/Dadang Tri

Ana Swanson
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Mental Health?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Mental Health is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Mental Health

We all know sleep matters for job performance. After a week of vacation, you may find your work better than ever. But rack up a week of sleepless nights — say, following a polarizing presidential election — and you may find yourself struggling.

It wouldn't surprise anyone that sleep affects attention, memory and cognition — important factors in the workplace. But striking new research suggests the effect of additional sleep has a high monetary value. A paper — from Matthew Gibson of Williams College and Jeffrey Shrader of the University of California at San Diego, based on data from Jawbone, the fitness- and sleep-tracker company — says that additional time sleeping can translate into thousands of dollars in wages.

In fact, they calculate that a one-hour increase in weekly sleep raises wages by about half as much as an additional year of education.

Now, the story is not so simple. Don't think you can start to sleep more and you will instantly make more money. It's more about the subtle interplay between how people schedule their lives, how much time they have available to sleep and how that affects worker performance and, ultimately, earnings.

 The link between effective leadership and a good night's sleep is clear.
Image: McKinsey

To investigate how sleep affects worker wages, the researchers took advantage of a kind of natural experiment — sunset times across American time zones. Past research shows that people naturally end up sleeping longer when the sun sets earlier, for example in the winter, even if the person goes to bed well after dark. When the sun sets an hour later, it reduces nighttime sleep by roughly 20 minutes per week.

Within a single time zone, the time of sunset varies substantially, as the map below shows. For example, the sun sets about an hour and a half earlier in Mars Hill, Maine, than in Ontonagon, Mich., even though both are in the Eastern time zone. Because there shouldn’t be any significant differences in workers on the eastern or western edge of a time zone beyond the amount of time they sleep, researchers use this variation to calculate how much sleep influences wages.

 Average sunset in the United States
Image: Washington Post

They find that a one-hour increase in average weekly sleep in a location increases wages by 1.3 percent in the short run, which include changes of less than a year, and 5 percent in the long run. By moving to a location where a sunset is one hour earlier, a worker will make an additional $1,570 a year.

Those differences in wages end up being incorporated into the local economy. The researchers find that higher wages actually translate into higher home values as well. A county that experiences a sunset one hour earlier has on average a 6 percent higher median home value, about $7,900 to $8,800 dollars, they say.

Not all of these wage differences are due directly to sleep, the researchers caution. Some could be due to the cumulative influence of other people. If the workers around you are made slightly more productive by sleeping better, that could make your work more productive, too.

The findings suggest that sleep is a crucial determinant of productivity and wages, “rivaling ability and human capital in importance,” the researchers write.

Given the huge benefit that more sleep can bring, we should certainly pay more attention to ensuring that workers sleep more, they say.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Mental HealthFuture of WorkEconomic Progress
Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

'Striking inequities' as global cancer burden grows, and other health stories you need to know this week

Shyam Bishen

February 14, 2024

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum