Sleeping on the Job? It Just Might Be Better Than the Alternative.

According to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, workers in the U.S. are chronically sleep deprived. The study found that as much as 30% of the workforce operates on less than six hours of sleep per night, a ways away from the physician recommended seven to nine hours.

The study found that this issue was disproportionately true among night shift workers, with as high as 70 percent of night workers experiencing poor sleep habits in certain fields (such as transportation, warehousing, and healthcare. Another hard-hit demographic are those with more than one job; people with two jobs have about a 37% chance of finding themselves among those not getting enough sleep.

The “So What”

For their part, workers are likely to experience several side-effects of being overly tired – and they go beyond just being slow or less productive on the work floor. For example, those running on low amounts of sleep are more likely to make mistakes and be inattentive to their work. A tired worker may not only be working slowly, but also be working inefficiently if they cannot adequately complete their tasks. Time off also increases when workers are sleep deprived because they are more prone to be afflicted by other ailments. Sleep deprived employees have been shown to experience cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other conditions at higher rates than their counterparts that are getting a full night’s sleep. Even the common cold and influenza virus are more likely to make an appearance when defenses are down.

Even more dangerous, is that these mistakes can easily turn into accidents, which can in turn become injuries. Workplace injuries are no small matter, and this can true despite the size or scale of the injury itself seeming relatively small. Paperwork, investigative work, and loss of production can take a toll on your business. Slips, trips, cuts, and falls are going to happen more and more often if your employees are nodding off at work.

Sleep Hacking (AKA, how to have a rested workforce)

You have no direct control over what your employees do in their off time, but you can educate them and encourage them to get the sleep they need. However, folks would like to get a good night’s sleep just as much as you’d like them to, so it may not be for a lack of trying. One thing you can do is to check in with employees you haven’t talked with face to face for a while, or that you suspect might be coming to work overly tired, and ask if their schedules need to be re-evaluated. Maybe switching some hours around could give them the opportunity to sleep more on days their schedules are full, as their outside-of-work calendar may have changed since they were hired or their work hours were last evaluated.

Alternatively, educate your workers on effective sleeping. It is well known in the field of sleep science that most people have sleep schedules that have them going through all five stages of sleep about once every 90 minutes. Ever hit the snooze button and woken up half an hour later feeling even more tired than before? Waking up in the middle of one of these cycles is one of the big reasons for morning grogginess, and our body tries to get us to fall back asleep to complete the cycle. It is for this reason that someone can sleep seven and a half hours (1.5 x 5) and feel more rested than if they slept 8 hours (where they wake up half an hour into a cycle). Ideal sleeping amounts for most adults are either 7.5 or a full 9 hours. More is usually better, but even sleeping six hours, an even four cycles, is preferable to sleeping six hours and 45 minutes or a similar amount.

Next time you find one of your co-workers or employees sleeping on the job, take the time to see if there is something you can do to help him/her. You never know, your help may prevent the next workplace accident from happening.

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