Workplace Interventions to Promote Sleep for Employees

We all know sleep is important and, yet, many of us still aren’t getting enough of it to support optimal health.

One-third of adults aren’t getting enough sleep, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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.

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:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Coronary Heart Disease
  • Stroke

Sleep and mental health are also deeply intertwined. The amount and quality of your sleep impacts your psychological state.

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
  • Adds up to roughly 1.23 million lost work days 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, increased needlesticks and exposure to blood and other bodily fluids, and increased occupational injuries.

Workplace Interventions to Promote Sleep

You might think to yourself, “How can I influence an aspect of my employees’ lives that typically happens at home?” However, there are several workplace interventions to promote sleep, which can be implemented by employers. Here are some ways you can help your people get a better night’s rest and have a more productive day.

  1. 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.
  2. Consider workplace environment. Environmental conditions at work can help to improve alertness. Some of the 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 sound, such as music, can also act as a stimulant.
  3. 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 in the hour before bedtime), and how to recognize 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.
  4. 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.