We've all heard the stories of the startup team working late into the night, day after day, as they try to build their business, or the bankers sleeping in the office while they try to close a big deal. Research suggests that sleep deprivation can have some significant costs though, and not just in terms of personal health. Michael Christian and Aleksander Ellis wrote a paper titled, "Examining the Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Workplace Deviance: A Self-Regulatory Perspective." By deviance, they mean "a wide spectrum of behaviors that violate organizational norms and threaten the success of a company, ranging from rudeness and withheld effort to theft and violence."
The authors conducted a series of studies on sleep deprivation. In some cases, they conducted field research, and in other instances, they performed experimental studies in the laboratory. They found that sleep deprivation does indeed increase deviant behavior in organizations. For instance, in one experimental study, they split their research subjects into two groups. one group was able to get a normal night's sleep, while the other did not sleep for 24 hours. Then the students had to mentor fellow business school students and answer inquiries from business school applicants. The sleep-deprived students were more likely to provide "inappropriate, negative, or hurtful responses" to questions from fellow students or applicants. Similarly, in a field study, they found that nurses were more likely to engage in deviant behavior if they were sleep deprived.