As was highlighted in the previous article, Sleep and Work (Part 1), the reasons why we sleep, and the outcomes of sleep and sleep deprivation are numerous and varied. Nevertheless, research has linked the various attributes of sleep, sleep deprivation, and work to numerous sub-factors including work performance, satisfaction, and attendance. As such, this article will explore the relationship between sleep, sleep deprivation, and the various factors that make up our work experience.

A study examining the relationship between natural sleep-wake cycles, work start times, sleep deprivation and the impact on performance, satisfaction, and absenteeism found that individuals who had a more advanced sleep cycle (early to bed, early to rise) also had earlier start times, higher job satisfaction, and increased sleep time. Alternatively, individuals with delayed sleep cycles (late to bed, late to rise) illustrated lower performance and fewer sleep hours. It was further discovered that sleep duration was associated with greater performance, satisfaction, and fewer absences (Tomaka, 2016). Thus, it should be considered that if we not only want to perform better at work but also feel more satisfied, better sleep is a key factor.

Another study examining the relationship between sleep problems and work injuries across the literature found that workers with sleep problems had a 1.62 times higher risk of being injured than workers without sleep problems; furthermore, it was expressed that 13% of work injuries can be correlated with sleep problems (Uehli et al., 2014). In addition, the financial implications of insomnia were highlighted in a study showing that in a single Canadian province (Quebec), insomnia cost $6.6 billion annually. 76% of that total expense is attributable to insomnia-related work absences and reduced productivity (Daley, Morin, & LeBlanc et al., 2009).

Moreover, in line with some of the research highlighted in our previous article, a study determined that sleep deprivation has more significant detriments on mood, as compared to cognitive or motor performance and that partial sleep deprivation (<5 hours in 24-hour period) has more negative effects than short or long-term sleep deprivation (Pilcher & Huffcutt, 1996). Furthermore, another study looking at the relationship between psychosocial factors, work factors, and sleep disturbances illustrated that social support at work, control, and organizational justice all contributed to fewer sleep disturbances, whereas high work demands, job strain, bullying, and effort-reward imbalance contributed to more sleep disturbances (Linton et al., 2015).

Yet, research has also highlighted methods and strategies that improve the relationship between sleep and work. For instance, a study looked at the impact that mindfulness and psychological detachment had on sleep quality, both daily and across the week. The study found that day-to-day mindfulness resulted in higher levels of psychological detachment, which in this context refers to the ability to separate both cognitively and physically from the work situation/environment, and improved levels of sleep quality, such that a generally higher average level of mindfulness across time, in an individual, resulted in better psychological detachment and sleep quality. The study also found that within-person variance in mindfulness (the internal fluctuations of mindfulness in an individual) had less of an impact on sleep quality than between-person variance in mindfulness (the comparison of average levels of mindfulness across different people), where individuals with lower average levels of mindfulness throughout the work day experienced relatively poorer psychological detachment and sleep quality regardless of potential daily improvements. In addition, the study also highlighted that on average, sleep quality improves across the work week, as work-related anticipatory anxiety reduces (Hulsheger et al., 2014).

In addition, another study found that the treatment of insomnia using cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia (CBT-I), resulted in improvements in work-related outcomes, specifically for negative affect, self-control, and job satisfaction. In detail, the study illustrated a reduction in negative affect, and increases in self-control and job satisfaction. Consequently, through decreases in negative affect and increases in self-control and job satisfaction resulted in increased organization citizenship, which is defined as an individual’s contributions to an organization beyond contractual obligations and job specifications. Moreover, decreased negative affect and increased self-control was linked to decreased interpersonal deviance, which can be characterized by a reduction in behaviours that might include: workplace bullying, gossiping, and/or expressed anger/aggression (Barnes, Miller & Bostock, 2017).

As such, it is very important to understand the various factors that contribute to positive and negative relationship between work and sleep. Yet, beyond understanding the factors, it is most important to take small and meaningful steps to improve the relationship between work and sleep. As illustrated above, adopting and integrating a mindful approach while at work and developing a stronger and clearer relationship between your bed and sleep (such as through CBT-I) can greatly improve your experience at work as well as with sleep!

Stay tuned for future articles in which I will expand in greater detail on the benefits of stimulus control, sleep efficiency training, and other interventions within CBT-I. In addition, I will discuss and explore various methods in which to integrate mindfulness practices effortlessly into your daily routine.

Blog by Aaron Telnes
Registered Provisional Psychologist
Calgary Career Counselling


Barnes, C. M., Miller, J. A., & Bostock, S. (2017). Helping employees sleep well: effects of cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia on work outcomes. Journal of Applied Psychology102(1), 104.

Daley, M., Morin, C. M., LeBlanc, M., Grégoire, J. P., & Savard, J. (2009). The economic burden of insomnia: direct and indirect costs for individuals with insomnia syndrome, insomnia symptoms, and good sleepers. Sleep32(1), 55-64.

Hülsheger, U. R., Lang, J. W., Depenbrock, F., Fehrmann, C., Zijlstra, F. R., & Alberts, H. J. (2014). The power of presence: The role of mindfulness at work for daily levels and change trajectories of psychological detachment and sleep quality. Journal of Applied Psychology99(6), 1113.

Linton, S. J., Kecklund, G., Franklin, K. A., Leissner, L. C., Sivertsen, B., Lindberg, E., … & Björkelund, C. (2015). The effect of the work environment on future sleep disturbances: a systematic review. Sleep medicine reviews23, 10-19.

Pilcher, J. J., & Huffcutt, A. I. (1996). Effects of sleep deprivation on performance: a meta-analysis. Sleep19(4), 318-326.