Turns out that a long list of negatives — decreased innovation, reduced productivity, mood changes, and difficulty in focusing — are linked to people not getting enough sleep. Not to mention the links to obesity, high blood pressure, and a host of other health issues.

Why do people cut back on sleep? Work.

So-called short sleepers (those who get less than 6 hours per night) spend 1.5 more hours at work than normals, according to the American Time Use Survey.

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The highest likelihood for longer work hours was with those that hold multiple jobs.

And the survey found that for every hour that the start of work was pushed back, people gained 20 minutes more sleep.

The lead author of the study, Dr. Mathias Basner, said

Potential intervention strategies to decrease the prevalence of chronic sleep loss in the population include greater flexibility in morning work and class start times, reducing the prevalence of multiple jobs, and shortening morning and evening commute times.

So, one solution to the negatives involved with short sleep is to push back the time for people to start working. Note that 80,000 car accidents every year are attributed to drowsy drivers, and a possible 1,000 deaths.

The president of the American Academy of Sleep, Dr Timothy Morgenthaler, said

Getting at least seven hours of nightly sleep is essential to be at your mental, emotional and physical best for whatever you will pour yourself into, either at work or at home.

Note that the self-employed are most likely to get enough sleep.

So pushing back the workday an hour or two is good policy, even if the early morning types will get up and work anyway. For the night owls, the benefits are overwhelming.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Written by

Founder, Work Futures. Editor, GigaOm. My obsession is the ecology of work, and the anthropology of the future.

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