The links between sleep and the workplace

Most of us would have experienced at least once how poor sleep quality in one night can affect negatively our performance. We can easily feel our mood, energy levels and focus shift after a bad night, but there are other consequences to sleep deprivation that we should be aware of.

Sleep Deprivation

It is not unusual to hear people talking about occasions in which they had to sacrifice sleep for work, but sleep deprivation can actually impact job performance, regardless of the industry.

Without enough sleep, neurons in the brain become overworked, impairing thinking, slowing physical reactions, and leaving people feeling emotionally drained. These short-term side effects of sleep deprivation can wreak havoc on a day’s work. Chronic sleep deprivation can have even more drastic consequences, including an increased risk of obesity, heart disease, cognitive decline, and dementia.¹

Tired shift worker

Shift Work and Health

According the Sleep Disorders Australia, shift workers sleep more poorly than others and are more tired than daytime workers, both during and after shifts. Not only that, the increased stress, poor diet during shift work and increased smoking, caffeine consumption and disturbed body clock function can cause related health issues.

Work Safety & Sleep Apnea

More than one Australian dies every day from falling asleep at the wheel of a vehicle or from industrial accidents due to poor quality sleep and lack of sleep. Many significant accidents happen in the early hours of the morning when we should be asleep because shift workers are staying awake against their natural body clock.²

There are strong links between work safety and sleep apnea, which is a very common sleep disorder that occurs when the airway in your throat collapses during sleep, reducing airflow or completely blocking the airway. Research has shown that people with sleep apnea are at least four times more likely to have a car accident. This is due to the disrupted nighttime sleep, that impairs their ability to concentrate and increases the chances of falling asleep at the wheel. This can be a lethal combination when sleep apnea occurs in people who have occupations involving operating machinery or transport.³ 


1. Sleep Foundation: Good Sleep and Job performance 

2. Sleep Disorders Australia: Shift Work fact sheet 

3. Sleep Disorders Australia: Sleep apnea fact sheet

Leave a comment