Sleep Health: What Is Good Sleep vs. Bad Sleep?

Sleep is vital for survival. It serves two major functions: restoration and memory processing. It occupies around one-third of a human lifetime fulfilling these roles. However, more than 1 in 3 Americans are sleep-deprived.  Poor sleep directly affects the workplace and is associated with increased accidents, decreased productivity, and increased healthcare costs. 

What Is Good Sleep?

Good sleep is essential for optimal physical and mental health. But, what does good sleep look like? Dr. Ioannis Koutsourelakis, Goodpath’s lead sleep doctor, describes the elements of healthy sleep: 

1. Sleep Duration

The total amount of sleep obtained in a 24-hour period. It is recommended that adults get 7-9 hours of sleep per night.

2. Sleep Efficiency

The ratio of total time spent asleep to time spent in bed. It is recommended that >85% of one’s time in bed is spent sleeping. Adequate sleep efficiency leads to deeper, higher quality sleep and improved feelings of being well-rested.

3. Number of awakenings

More continuous sleep results in more restful sleep.

4. Sleep Quality

Feeling satisfied with sleep.

5. Sleep Latency

The amount of time it takes to fall asleep after getting in bed and turning off the lights. It should take 20 minutes or less to fall asleep.

What Is Poor Sleep?

Poor sleep or troubled sleep is alarmingly common, with 1 in 3 adults reporting they do not get enough sleep. In fact, 65% of adults said that for 5-7 days of the week, their sleepiness negatively impacted their ability to get things done. Further, 47% of adults said that their sleepiness negatively impacted their work performance 5-7 days of the week. 

1. Poor quality sleep

Sleep quality is defined as one's satisfaction with the sleep experience, including sleep initiation, maintenance, quantity, and feeling refreshed upon awakening.

2. Changes in sleep patterns

This is a change in a person’s schedule including shifts in bedtime and wake times, as well as nap behavior. This naturally changes over the course of one's life, with the proportion of slow-wave sleep peaking early in life, declining during adolescence and adulthood, and possibly disappearing after age 60. 

3. Clinical insomnia

This is when an individual reports difficulty either falling or staying asleep despite adequate opportunity. This sleep difficulty occurs at least 3 times per week and persists as a problem for at least 3 months, with the result of this impairment being associated with daytime impairment or distress.

Employer Consequences of Poor Sleep

Poor sleep affects employee health and productivity; much more than employers know. It has direct healthcare costs for sleep treatment, yet contributes to even larger costs hidden behind claims for conditions made worse by poor sleep, such as heart disease or depression. Poor sleepers utilize more healthcare and are up to 2x times more likely to develop costly health conditions.

Poor sleep can cause numerous challenges at work, from absenteeism to reduced productivity. Poor sleep contributes to a 200% increase in workplace accidents, 11.3 work days per employee lost due to reduced productivity, and a 20% reduction in  decision-making.

Accessing proper sleep treatment programs is paramount for employers who wish to manage employee health and healthcare costs.

This article is part of GEHI's larger series on sleep and its role in employee health. Continue here for statistics and details on how sleep affects health conditions.

For more information on sleep and its relationship to employee health and workplace productivity, access the full Sleep & Its Role In Employee Health report here. You can also access the Improving Employee Sleep Action Plan here