As if employers don't have enough causes of lost productivity to worry about, here comes a new one: insomnia. A new study projects that the disorder leads to about 274,000 mistakes that cause over $30 billion in losses due to accidents and workplace errors.
Though it may seem obvious that a lack of sleep would lead to more mistakes on the job, only two previous studies — both relatively small and carried out in France — had tried to determine how many workers were affected. The new study, published Monday in the Archives of General Psychiatry, is by far the largest to look at the effect of insomnia on the workplace.
For the study, researchers used data from the America Insomnia Survey, or AIS, a nationwide phone survey of people with health insurance that was administered to 10,094 Americans. They also asked participants whether they had "a workplace accident that either caused damage or work disruption with a value of $500 or more," and also "Not counting accidents, did you ever in the past 12 months make a big mistake at work that cost your company $500 or more?"
They found that a full 20% of participants reported having symptoms consistent with a diagnosis of insomnia, and that 4.3% of respondents had committed a serious error or had an accident over the past year. Most importantly, having insomnia made respondents almost twice as likely to commit an error or have an accident, and the researchers estimate that somewhere between 10% and 15% of workplace errors and accidents can be attributed to insomnia.