PUBLISHED: 5:09 PM on Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Get more sleep, enjoy your job
There seems to be a coffee shop on just about every corner and in every strip mall from coast to coast.

Go into one early in the morning and you're bound to run into some cranky, tired people on their way to work.

As America becomes a nation of caffeinated insomniacs, a new University of Florida study shows lack of sleep not only makes people tired and cranky but also causes them to dislike and even hate their jobs the next morning.

"It's intuitive that one might feel a little irritable, but to experience emotional spillover to the point of actually feeling less satisfied with work is a little surprising," said Brent Scott, a UF graduate student who led the research.

The effects were most pronounced in women, who reported suffering more fatigue and hostility and being less attentive and happy than their male counterparts, said Scott, whose study is being published in the Journal of Management.

Forty-five employees at a regional office of a large national insurance company participated in the study.

Every day for three weeks they completed a survey at the end of the workday asking them to rate their level of work satisfaction, the extent to which they suffered from sleep problems and how often they experienced certain emotions.

Employees reported higher rates of job satisfaction if they had slept soundly the night before and lower levels if they had experienced insomnia, he said.

The issue is becoming increasingly important because people are getting less sleep.

A recent survey by the National Sleep Foundation found that Americans sleep an average of 6.8 hours a night on weekdays, with as many as a quarter sleeping well only a few nights a month.

By not doing anything, businesses risk more frequent turnover if their employees are not content in the workplace.

Companies can address the problem by giving employees flexibility in making their schedules, providing on-site child care and offering wellness programs designed to teach employees how to reduce insomnia.

Individuals can take steps of their own by exercising more and limiting consumption of caffeine and alcohol.

"Undoubtedly one of the reasons Americans are getting less sleep is the growth in dual-career couples," Scott said.

"When husbands and wives both work, they come home having to do household duties and take care of children, which leaves them little time for sleep."

Employers contribute to the problem by making more demands. "With employers trying to squeeze every last bit of productivity out of employees and having them work extended hours, a 40-hour week is basically nonexistent anymore in some occupations," he said.

Employers should pay attention to workers' needs, though, because lack of sleep may ultimately hurt job performance. According to the UF researchers, one of the first changes that might be apparent is employees being less willing to help co-workers who miss work because of illness or another reason, he said.

"Although managers often complain about employees' poor job performance, this research suggests that they actually may be responsible for it by creating conditions that lead their employees to suffer insomnia," said Jerald Greenberg, a professor of management and human resources at Ohio State University.

"Hopefully, managers will take note by becoming part of the solution."