Promising Practices Promising PracticesPromising Practices
A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

Why Agencies Should Care How Well Their Employees Sleep

Image via ollyy/

Greatist is the fastest-growing fitness, health and happiness media start-up. Check out  more wellness news at

Employers need to talk to their employees about sleep — and not just when they catch them snoozing on the job.

There’s a ton of research suggesting American adults are having problems sleeping because of work-related stress. New data suggests that while we might technically be in bed for the recommended seven to nine hours, thinking about our mistakes on that last project report might mean we’re only actually resting for five. If employers want to improve their employees’ health, and thereby their productivity, they need to focus not just on sleep quantity but also sleep quality.

What's the Deal

There’s reason to believe Americans spend a lot of time tossing and turning, trying to put the stress of the day behind them and drift off to dreamland. The American Time Use Survey indicates the average American spends almost nine hours sleeping every night. But according to recent sleep polls, Americans say they only sleep about seven hours per night. So where are those missing two hours? It’s possible that while Americans spend nine hours in bed, only seven of those are spent actually sleeping or achieving a good rest as opposed to hitting the snooze button over and over.

While the demons that keep us awake at night obviously differ for everyone, job stress is among the most common. A growing body of research suggests the inability to stop worrying about work during our free time may contribute to problems sleeping, and studies have found that the more we feel stressed and overwhelmed at work, the more likely we are to experience disturbed sleep. Recent studies also suggest people’s sleep quality improves significantly around retirement, and researchers attribute this change to a decrease in work-related stress.

Why it Matters

This trend extends far beyond a few frazzled workers who sleep with their smartphones glued to their faces. A series of National Sleep Foundation polls suggests that more than half of American adults experience one or more symptoms of insomnia at least a few nights a week. Those symptoms include waking up not feeling refreshed, waking often during the night, and waking too early and not being able to fall back asleep.

Health experts generally counsel employers to figure out ways to manage chronic sleep deprivation (see psychologist Laurence Stybel’s recent piece on for an example). But what these leaders really need to focus on is sleep quality over sleep duration, and specifically the ability to separate the office from the bedroom. In the end, companies as well as individuals will benefit, since research has shown that problems sleeping contribute to poor (and even unethical) performance on the job. And even though employers aren’t doctors, they may actually be in the best position to help employees deal with work-related stress, since they’re actually familiar with the work environment. Maybe that means implementing company-wide sleep management programs, or even meeting individually with employees to discuss their bedtime routines.

With any luck, by the time next year’s ATUS rolls around, we’ll be able to say with confidence that we spend that whole nine hours snoozing. And maybe we’ll stop having that dream about showing up to work naked. Just me?

Do you find yourself preoccupied with work-related worries when you should be snoozing? Let us know in the comments below or tweet the author at @ShanaDLebowitz.


Image via Ollyy/

Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.