Friday, October 13, 2017


Summary and Critique by Claude Bingham


As part of his dissertation, Brett Litwiller conducted a meta-analysis of studies that examined sleep's effect on work quality. As this is a summary geared towards intelligence professionals, the findings will be limited to ideas that inform readers of this specific blog.

Litwiller starts by explaining that a recent study found 34% of American workers fell asleep unintentionally in the past 30 days. He defines sleep as a, "... state of immobility that consists of greatly diminished physical responsiveness and is more rapidly reversible than anesthesia or coma (Siegel, 2005)." Insufficient amounts of quality sleep, Litwiller says, leads directly to disease and workplace ineffectiveness. Sleep quality is obviously hard to quantify outside of hours of sleep completed.

Based on his literature review, he explains that supportive work environments actually reduce the effects of sleep deprivation but stressful environments will not only exacerbate their effects but also harm sleep quality in return. Analysis of source studies showed the following effects on effectiveness: increased accidents or mistakes, especially for monotonous tasks, increases in mental instability such as depression, mood changes, and burnout, and increases in work absences. Interestingly, sleep had no significant effect on how much people enjoyed their job, just how well they performed at it and connected with peers.


Meta-analyses are generally considered the most valid form of research as they have the benefit of testing already completed research results against each other. Litwiller was very keen to make sure results were compared only to like studies; only two studies examined actually used empirically validatable and testable definitions of sleep in their research. Likewise, most of the studies were based on self-reported results, something that can create incredibly drastic errors in data collection, considering the nature of sleep. These two factors make this meta-analysis slightly less credible than it would be otherwise, however, the sheer amount of data analysed showed that the results were mostly consistent, rarely contradictory, and showed a high correlation between more and better sleep, and better work production.


  1. I find it strange that sleep did not effect how much people liked their respective job, as lack of sleep impacted the way people saw their job. Lack of sleep increased mood changes, depression, and burnout, it is strange that these things were not correlated to how they viewed the enjoyment of their job.

    1. I personally did to, but if I had to guess, it was closer to inconclusive than a low correlation. then again, maybe people are compartmentalizing the cause and effect. It would need more study.

  2. Considering what we have been told thus far about careers in intelligence (with little to no real world experience of our own) and how Mercyhurst simulates these real world pressures, we know that careers in intelligence are often highly stressful. There are times where we are tasked with collecting highly significant information and providing this information in a very short amount of time. Also, considering intelligence analysts and professionals are paid to think critically and analytically, the fact that studies show that inadequate sleep leads to workplace ineffectiveness should call forth more attention to the matter as gaffes in national security intelligence, for example, can have severe consequences.

  3. More study on the effects/impact of sleep deprivation needs to be conducted. Furthermore, a critical look into effects of those who work in crisis-prone environments vs those who don't and how it affects their quality of lives. A study by Washington State University showed that even though people want to make the right choices to avoid making mistakes and incorporating feedback, the brain will limit them from doing so when there has been sleep deprivation.

  4. Getting enough sleep, especially in the intelligence field, is absolutely crucial as any mistake even a minor one could be detrimental to the the intelligence agency and its employees. More organizations and companies must pay closer attention to the effects of sleep deprivation and how they can help their employees who have problems with it. Supportive work environments do seem that they can help mitigate the affects.