To be Successful as a Society, We Need to go to Sleep

Hard work pays off. With hard work, anyone will be able to grow and be successful in life. Although a very true statement, one correlation erroneously made too often is hard work and dedication come at the price of losing sleep; even my favorite motivation speeches by motivational speaker Eric Thomas inspires people to lose sleep to succeed because sleep causes missed opportunities to be successful (How Bad … It, 2012, 4:20). Eric Thomas essentially expresses the societal view on sleep by seeing sleep as an obstacle to productivity, progress, and success. In all aspects of society, especially in corporations and schools, there are positive reinforcements for a lack of sleep because of the perception that it equates to productivity on schoolwork or company projects. What if I were to provide you with an alternative perspective from society and tell you that sleeping has the reverse effect on societal productivity, progress and success. Not only does sleep improve productivity, progress, and success, but sleep ensures increased safety to others in society.  

What comes to mind when I think about what productivity in a corporation looks like, I think about New York City because of the amount of activity that goes on earning the city the title of “the city that never sleeps”. What often strikes out to me when hearing that title is the never sleeping part and leaves me wondering how employees perform at companies that reward sleep deprivation. Researchers have examined this question by investigating the relationship between insomnia-like symptoms and work productivity. Each participant completed an online sleep assessment about their issues regarding sleep along with another assessment measuring insomnia symptoms. Moreover, a questionnaire relating to productivity at the workplace was assessed to each participant. Insomnia symptoms were found to be common among all sectors of the workplace when comparing plant, office, and retail workers. Work productivity was found to be negatively correlated with symptoms of insomnia (Espie et al., 2018).

To attach monetary value to how much employees are affected by a lack of sleep, employees, along with companies, lose money with poor productivity. In one instance, productivity losses were expected to cost about $1,967 per employee annually (Rosekind et al., 2010).

If companies and employees lose money when losing sleep, what are the outcomes of a company that emphasize sleep and what are ways to encourage sleep?

Although daytime napping is seen as counterproductive by companies, daytime napping has shown some benefits that would improve productivity in the workplace. Daytime napping increases alertness by napping more minutes to an hour; after the first hour, alertness does not increase an any significant way when comparing the first hour of napping compared to the second hour (Lumley et al., 1986). Despite the increased alertness from daytime napping, the number of hours slept the previous night still effects napping benefits. The longer a person is awake, the more time is required to experience napping benefits (Lovato and Lack, 2010). By adopting an overall acceptance for napping in the workplace, not only will employees be less sleep deprived, but productivity will rise allowing companies to earn more revenue.

When looking at how sleep impacts adolescents, examining school start times and average test scores prove to be reliable indicators. Biologically, adolescents tend to remain awake longer compared to other stages in development. Many junior and senior high schools across the United States start at times between 7am and 8am requiring some students who rely on school buses to get to school to wake up even earlier at around 5-6am.

Researchers have examined whether early start time schools are affecting sleeping patterns in adolescents in two public schools in a Rhode Island public school district. Volunteers from both the 9th and 10th grade (9th graders beginning school at 8am and 10th graders at 7:20am with 9th and 10th graders attending different schools) went into the sleeping lab for actigraphy recordings to assess sleep patterns along with completing a sleep diary when sleeping outside the lab. The results suggested that 9th graders were able to sleep longer than 10th graders because of the later start time, but both groups experienced a significant amount of sleep deprivation with an average of ~ 7 hours of sleep per night, which is less than the suggested 9 hours of sleep for adolescents (Carskadon et al., 1998). Despite the continuation of sleep deprivation, the 9th graders are gaining more hours of sleep with a later start time.

How do test scores compare when examining earlier start time schools to later start time schools? A study examined standardized testing scores from every middle school student in Wake County, North Carolina from 1999 to 2006 along with the school start times in the Wake County Public School System (one of the largest school districts in the nation). The results suggested that in comparison to the earlier start time schools in the area, test scores were increased by 1-3 percentile points on average. Despite the small average increase, scores on the lower end of the spectrum improved by a larger margin (Edwards, 2012). In addition, students were better behaved and had better attendance with a later start time (Lenard et al., 2020).

 As we discussed, sleep can both increase productivity, progress, and success in both the current and future generations of society. One underlying benefit to increasing average sleep time in society is the potential to reduce drowsy driving. As sleep scientist Dr. Matthew Walker has described, drowsy driving can lead to fatal crashes similar to when an 18-wheel truck rammed into a Pontiac hitting a school bus where all passengers in the Pontiac were killed along with the bus driver, and nine children on the bus and the truck driver were critically injured (Walker, 311). With a growing acceptance of lack of sleep, we as a society are endangering each other by sending sleep deprived adults onto the road to travel to work and driving back to their homes without any naps in between. As a society, our average total sleep time needs to increase to about 8-9 hours a night to ensure a majority of members in society are well rested. Our new journey to success involves an increase in sleep. To rephrase Thomas’ words, to be successful, we need to sleep to ensure maximum productivity and progress. Without sleep, we will set ourselves for failure and missed opportunities.


Carskadon, M. A., Wolfson, A. R., Acebo, C., Tzischinsky, O., & Seifer, R. (1998). Adolescent sleep patterns, circadian timing, and sleepiness at a transition to early school days. Sleep, 21(8), 871-881. doi:10.1093/sleep/21.8.871

Edwards, F. (2012). Early to Rise? The effect of daily start times on academic performance. Economics of Education Review, 31(6), 970-983. doi:10.1016/j.econedurev.2012.07.006

Espie, C. A., Pawlecki, B., Waterfield, D., Fitton, K., Radocchia, M., & Luik, A. I. (2018). Insomnia symptoms and their association with workplace productivity: Cross-sectional and pre-post intervention analyses from a large multinational manufacturing company. Sleep Health, 4(3), 307-312. doi:10.1016/j.sleh.2018.03.003

Lenard, M., Morrill, M. S., & Westall, J. (2020). High school start times and student achievement: Looking beyond test scores. Economics of Education Review, 76, 101975. doi:10.1016/j.econedurev.2020.101975

Lovato, N., & Lack, L. (2010). The effects of napping on cognitive functioning. Progress in Brain Research, 155-166. doi:10.1016/b978-0-444-53702-7.00009-9

Lumley, M., Roehrs, T., Zorick, F., Lamphere, J., & Roth, T. (1986). The alerting effects of naps in sleep-deprived subjects. Psychophysiology, 23(4), 403-408. doi:10.1111/j.1469-8986.1986.tb00653.x

MattHowell65 (Director). (2011, August 29). How bad do you want it? (success) hd [Video file]. Retrieved March 28, 2021, from

Rosekind, M. R., Gregory, K. B., Mallis, M. M., Brandt, S. L., Seal, B., & Lerner, D. (2010). The cost of poor sleep: Workplace productivity loss and associated costs. Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine, 52(1), 91-98. doi:10.1097/jom.0b013e3181c78c30

Scholastic, & Crouch, M. (2017). Generation Zzzzzzzz [Photograph]. Scholastic Choices.

Walker, M. P. (2018). Why we sleep: The new science of sleep and dreams. London, UK: Penguin Books.

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