Sleep can do many things, according to science. It improves concentration and memory, boosts cognitive function, makes you less cranky (kindergarten teachers agree with researchers on this one), reduces stress, and even increases your EQ. But one thing we usually don't associate with extra time in bed is increased productivity. After all, if you're snoozing, by definition, you're not working, so how could a snooze help you get more done?

It might be counterintuitive, but according to a new study, we can now add increased output to the long list of benefits of being well rested, however. That's according to a thought-provoking post on the pros and cons of siesta culture on New York Magazine's Science of Us blog.

The Spanish government recently launched a campaign to try and persuade citizens to skip the siesta and work straight through the day, a move which serves as the impetus for the post. (As someone who lives in a country where, like in parts of Spain, it's routinely above 100 in the afternoon in summer, I say good luck with that.) But the piece by Tanya Basu also contains fascinating research that will be of interest even to those who live in more temperate climes.

Can you snooze your way to higher earnings?

The work was done by economists Matthew Gibson and Jeffrey Shrader, and it analyzes time use day from the American Time Use Survey, which asks Americans to give detailed accounts of how they spend their days. The bottom line: "What Gibson and Shrader found was that sleep has a definite effect on productivity, which in turn might affect worker wages (the more productive you are at work, the more likely you either score a raise or get compensated with tips)."

Just one additional hour of sleep a week increased wages by 1.5 percent over the course of a season and 4.9 percent over the course of a few years. That might not sound like a lot, but Basu points out that these small changes add up."For a person who makes $50,000 a year, that's a bonus of $2,450 at the end of the year for sleeping an extra 12 minutes per work day," she writes. Yes, she really does say you can earn more money by sleeping.

When should you sneak in that extra sleep?

As the overall post is about naps, Badu goes on to investigate whether those additional minutes of sleep are best gotten in the day or at night. While there's nothing inherently wrong with napping, Shrader, the co-author of the productivity paper, tells Badu that his work isn't necessarily an endorsement of the afternoon siesta. The most important takeaway is that being well rested overall is probably the best productivity booster.

Naps are "a short-term solution to what is probably a long-term sleeping deficit," Shrader explains to Badu, adding that "the desire to take one masks the fact that you're probably not sleeping as well at night... Nighttime sleep is better than naps."

That's good to know, but for most of those reading in nap-averse countries like America, it's a moot point. You probably don't have the opportunity to nap anyway. The essential takeaway is more basic -- you might feel lazy sleeping in a bit more, but be reassured. Science says a few extra minutes of shut eye will probably help you produce more and, consequently, earn more. So snooze away whenever you can. 

Published on: Apr 19, 2016
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