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September 30, 2014

An extra hour of sleep could increase your earnings by 16%, researchers say

Daily Briefing

Lack of sleep has negative effects on health, emotional well-being, and earnings, according to a working paper from researchers at the University of California-San Diego.

For the study, the researchers compared wages with average sleep times based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Time Use Survey.

They concluded that—for the sleep-deprived—adding an hour to the average amount of sleep per night increased wages by 16%, according to the working paper. The study is the first to attempt to quantify the earnings impact of sleep deprivation, according to the Wall Street Journal's Brett Arends.

How much sleep should you get overall?

The average adult needs about eight hours of sleep, with the true percentage of those can get by on significantly less being "about zero," says Charles Czeisler, a sleep specialist at Brigham & Women's Hospital.

Less than 1% of Americans need fewer than six hours of sleep. Why?

Experts say the negative cognitive effects of too-little sleep are numerous, including:

  • Trouble thinking creatively;
  • Difficulty absorbing new information; and
  • Making errors in complex multistep processes.

However, workers today get dramatically less sleep than previous generations. Fifty years ago, only 2% to 3% of workers reported getting less than six hours of sleep a night—today that number is closer to 30%, Czeisler says.

Researchers: Sleeping seven hours may actually be healthier than eight

More employers are demanding long hours from their workers, but technology has also played a role in reducing average sleep times. Czeisler says many of his patients report checking their email late at night and early in the morning, with a smartphone never more than an arm's length away.

How can you tell if you need more sleep? Dr. Czeisler notes that "if you need an alarm clock to wake you up, by definition, you're not getting enough sleep" (Arends, Wall Street Journal [subscription required], 9/18).

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