We all know sleep is important. Yet, many of us still aren’t getting enough of it to support optimal health. Insufficient sleep can result in negative physical and mental impacts, which can lead to the development of different chronic conditions.
One in three adults — representing about 84 million people — describe their sleep as “fair” or “poor,” according to Gallup.
How much is “enough” sleep?
Healthy adults should aim for seven or more hours per night on a regular basis. Certain populations, such as young adults, individuals recovering from sleep debt, or people suffering from an illness, may require more than nine hours of sleep.
But how does sleep, which happens at home, show up in the workplace? Keep reading to learn about the impact on both individuals and employers.
Impact of Poor Sleep on Individuals
Inadequate sleep comes with clear consequences — physically, mentally, and emotionally. Adults who sleep six or less hours per night have a greater likelihood of developing a chronic condition than those who report seven or more hours of sleep.
According to the CDC, poor sleep increases risk of chronic conditions such as:
- Coronary Heart Disease
Sleep and mental health are also deeply intertwined. The amount and quality of your sleep impact your psychological state. And those with anxiety disorders or depression tend to have intense and frequent sleep issues like nightmares or insomnia.
Neuroimaging and neurochemistry studies suggest that a good night’s sleep helps foster mental and emotional resilience, according to Harvard Medical School. Conversely, chronic sleep deprivation can fuel negative thinking and emotional vulnerability. Recurring sleep problems may even increase your risk of developing certain mental illnesses.
Impact of Poor Sleep on Organizations
Think back to the last time you slept poorly. Did you find it difficult to focus on the task at hand? You likely left work that day feeling like you didn’t get as much accomplished as you normally do. Additionally, you may have felt more irritable, which caused you to be “short” with coworkers.
The amount and quality of your workforce’s sleep impacts their productivity, job performance, and work relationships, too. Fatigue can cause irritability, reduced alertness, impaired decision-making, and decreased motivation, concentration, and memory.
Poor sleep and fatigue can hinder productivity, leading to:
- $1,967 cost to employers per employee per year
- Roughly 1.23 million lost workdays annually
- Unplanned absenteeism costs the economy $44.6 billion annually
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Inadequate sleep also puts employees at risk of workplace injury. It can slow down their physical and cognitive reaction time, resulting in an accident that might have otherwise been preventable.
In some industries, errors come with even higher stakes.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, decreased alertness from worker fatigue has been a contributing factor in several well-known industrial disasters. In the healthcare industry, it can also lead to errors in patient care and increased occupational injuries.
5 Ways to Promote Better Sleep
You might think, “How can I influence an aspect of my employees’ lives that typically happens at home?” There are several workplace interventions to promote sleep which can be implemented by employers. Here are some interventions to help your people get a better night’s rest and have a more productive day.
- Make sleep an organizational priority. Leaders should consider how they can support their employees’ sleep health. For example, you might suggest that leaders hold off on sending emails after 6 p.m. To ensure that important notes don’t get forgotten, they could draft the emails and then “auto-schedule” them to get sent out first thing the next morning. This allows employees to truly disconnect from work and get the rest they need to perform their best the next day.
- Consider the workplace environment. Environmental conditions at work can help to improve alertness. Some factors that influence how tired or awake your employees feel include lighting, temperature, and noise. During night shifts, for example, the CDC recommends increasing brightness to between 750 to 1,000 lux to increase alertness and reduce fatigue. Additionally, keep temperatures at about 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures higher than that can increase drowsiness. Continuous sounds, such as music, can also act as a stimulant.
- Educate and train employees on healthy sleep habits and signs of fatigue. Consider educating employees on the recommended amount of sleep, healthy sleep habits (such as disconnecting from technology the hour before bedtime), and recognizing when there may be a sleep problem that requires medical intervention. Additionally, train managers and employees on how to spot the early warning signs of fatigue in themselves or others and what action to take as a result.
- Provide mental and emotional well-being support. All areas of well-being are essential to high-quality sleep. But research reveals that emotional and mental health is more strongly related to self-reported sleep quality than exercise and healthy eating. Given this relationship, consider providing confidential counseling or coaching services for employees who may feel uncomfortable discussing their mental health openly. Additionally, mental health days can give employees time, space, and flexibility to address their mental health in a way that works for them.
- Leverage your workplace well-being program. Sleep health interventions incorporated into your well-being program can help to reduce on-the-job safety risks and boost productivity, according to the CDC. They can also help to decrease the risk of developing chronic health conditions. Aduro develops customized Human Performance programs that can help your employees adopt a number of healthy habits, including getting a good night’s sleep. Our sleep path provides insight and interventions to help your employees establish routines that promote better sleep.
By implementing these sleep health interventions, you can help your employees have a more restful night — and a more productive day.