A new study says many workers don’t get enough sleep, and that could spell real trouble; but you can take steps to keep them healthy and productive.
Are your employees getting enough sleep? According to a new study, many of them aren’t. In fact, researchers found that the prevalence of “short sleep duration” (i.e., fewer than seven hours of sleep per night) in working adults is 35.6%. This lack of sleep is most commonly seen in several specific professions, including healthcare support occupations (45%). Read on for more information from this study and how sleep hygiene education can help your employees sleep–and work–better.
Among some key findings from this study:
- Short sleep duration prevalence is similar for both men and women (35.5% and 35.8%, respectively). However, over the nine-year study period, women were more likely than men to report lack of sleep.
- Short sleep duration is significantly more common in African-Americans (45.5%) than Caucasians (34.1%).
- Interestingly, individuals born in the U.S. and those living in the American South had the highest prevalence of short sleep duration over the nine-year study period.
- Between 2010 and 2018, the prevalence of short sleep duration increased the most in widowed, divorced, or separated people (+21%); those workers in households with one child (+20%); multiracial individuals (+26%); individuals age 65 and older (+34%); and workers residing in the American West (+25%).
The study authors suggest, “From a public health perspective, chronic sleep problems [such as sleep apnea] need management by qualified professionals.” They also call for increasing awareness and improving the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders, as well as a greater emphasis on public education, training for health professionals, and surveillance and monitoring.
Why should you care about sleep? According to the authors, lack of sleep can increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes, stroke, hypertension, and heart disease. Short sleep duration is also associated with anxiety, alcohol abuse, absenteeism, unstable mood, lack of concentration, and suicidal ideation.
It is helpful for employers to remind workers about some basics of sleep hygiene:
- Avoiding or limiting alcohol consumption.
- Exercising 4-8 hours prior to bedtime (60 minutes of exercise is likely to cause the greatest increase in total sleep time).
- Managing stress and anxiety throughout the day.
- Engaging in relaxing activities (such as mindfulness meditation) just before bedtime.
- Limiting light and noise that can make it difficult to fall and stay asleep. Consider the use of earplugs or white noise machines as necessary.
- Observing, as possible, consistent sleep and wake times to synchronize physiological sleep drive with circadian rhythms.
- Avoiding caffeine use within 4-6 hours of bedtime.
- Resisting the urge to check phone messages, emails, or social media accounts in the middle of the night.
The authors conclude, “Employers that are willing to help employees develop adequate sleep times may increase the probability of workplace productivity, reduction in employee healthcare costs, and improving workplace safety and health. Sleep hygiene education may be one method to help employees optimize their levels of sleep and reduce a significant form of preventable harm.”