Dubai: Sleep-deprived residents in the UAE who have to drag themselves into the office every day are not just moving towards an early grave. According to health and management experts, lack of sleep is hurting companies’ bottom lines, too.

Employers in the UAE have been told that if they want to get the best out of their staff, they need to take strides to ensure everyone in the team is getting a good night’s rest. Lack of sleep has been blamed for poor performance levels among employees and costing companies in the United States a staggering $63.2 billion a year.

About a third of adult Americans (32 per cent) are getting enough shut-eye only a few times every month, or even less. The situation is no different - or even worse - in the UAE, where 65 per cent of more than 800 residents are sleep deprived, according to another research findings released this month.

“Sleep deprivation significantly affects work performance of an employee. [It] affects tests requiring speed and accuracy [such as computer-generated mathematical problem solving], works requiring multi-tasking skills [and] crucial judgment-related decisions [among others],” Dr Bodi Saicharan, Respiratory Medicine specialist at Burjeel Hospital Abu Dhabi, told Gulf News.

Dr Vicki Culpin, research director at Ashridge Business School, has called on managers to the take the issue seriously, citing that lack of sleep can have a negative impact on employees’ ability to do their tasks effectively.

Culpin said that a person who loses even an hour and thirty minutes of shut-eye in one night will be considerably less alert during the day.

“Only a reduction of 1.5 hours sleep for one night can lead to a 32 per cent decrease in daytime alertness,” Culpin said. She said that if a manager has a team of three members who are working with only that minor level of sleep deprivation, the impact on performance is equivalent to one full-time individual.

Those who oversee a team of workers, in particular, are seriously affected by reduced sleep, with seven in 10 (72 per cent) of managers in a recent study noting that they found it difficult to focus on their tasks at work because of insufficient sleep.

Speaking to an audience of 80 people from Hult International Business School and Ashridge Business School in Dubai recently, Culpin warned that sleep deprivation can slow down executive performance, as it can affect the key management skills of comprehension and coping with a rapidly changing environment, multi-tasking; producing innovative solutions to problems, as well as assessing risk and anticipating the range of consequences of an action, among others.

Saicharan said that, aside from affecting people’s ability to multi-task and make crucial decisions, short sleep also decreases an individual’s alertness and impairs memory and cognitive ability, or the ability to think and process information.

“Excessive sleepiness contributes to a higher risk of sustaining an occupational injury. It can lead to drowsy driving with increased risk of accidents,” Saicharan added.

Poor sleeping habits are linked to absenteeism, as well. A research published in the medical journal Sleep last year showed that employees who sleep for seven to eight hours each night tend to take fewer sick days than those who sleep for six hours or less.