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Understanding sleep habits and employee productivity

Understanding sleep habits and employee productivity

Having healthy daily routines is often advised for employees trying to optimise productivity. It also plays a crucial role in employee general wellbeing, and has the capacity to affect various aspects of our lives - from productivity, mood, and even to appetite.1,2 A study estimated that fatigue-related productivity losses costs companies $1967 per employee, annually.3

People have used a variety of means, including habit stacking, to get their day more organised. However, understanding and hacking one’s chronotype is one key aspect of building a healthy daily routine. Public interest in this area appears to be on the rise. In fact, in 2020, these terms were searched more than they have ever been in the last decade suggesting that the role of chronotypes in one’s daily life has been gaining significant attention.

Chronotypes and Sleep Habits

Chronotypes refer to individual differences in activity and energy across the day. For a long while, the main media appeared to predominantly feature early risers as the gold standard. Books like the 5am Club4 and the 5am Challenge on YouTube are testament to this. The popularisation of these early risers seems to create the impression that there is only one way to optimise productivity and be as successful as the early-rising CEOs. Even research appeared to suggest so. Studies have found that those who prefer later bed and rising times (evening chronotype), have less regular sleeping habits5, poor sleep quality6, and low mood7. Early risers, on the other hand, have been associated with more positive affect8, mindfulness, and better sleep quality9.

However, such research appears to neglect the fact that people are made to follow the same social schedule despite the individual differences in chronotype. Research has shown that genetic differences might explain why some amongst us might prefer waking early and some later in the day.10 Further, experts like Michael Eisenstein explain that individual differences in chronotype have been exacerbated by the “unnatural world” we live in.11

Humans are diurnal creatures, who wake and rest according to light. He highlights that the presence of artificial light, blue light from our screens, and “social jetlag” (i.e., where our body clock is upset by sleeping in on weekends and socialising with friends into the night) have led to our natural body rhythms being out of sync. It suggests this circadian desynchrony is at the heart of sleep disturbances and poor sleep quality that contributes to the negative effects of being a ‘late riser’. Thus it bears to reason that the issue is less about waking up at 5am but rather about finding a schedule most appropriate for our chronotype.

As a start, it might be good to identify with one of these four chronotypes to better understand our current body clock. The infographic below provides a brief description of each chronotype identified in Dr Breus’ book12 and includes suggestions on how one might structure their day13.

Figure 1. Four sleep chronotypes 
Figure 2. The ideal sleep routine for each type of chronotype

In the pursuit to optimize employee productivity, it is important to take a holistic approach that is suited to one's bodies and needs. While the 5am Club might be best for some, it might not be a one size fits all model. Borrowing from Sharma’s, author of the 5am Club, wisdom: Own your day, elevate your life.

By Kimberly T'ng




4. The 5 AM Club: Own Your Morning. Elevate Your Life by Robin Sharma








12. The Power of When: Discover Your Chronotype--And Learn the Best Time to Eat Lunch, Ask for a Raise, Have Sex, Write a Novel, Take Your Meds, and More by Michael Breus