We are having more trouble sleeping.
According to the Philips Global Sleep Survey, 62% of adults worldwide feel that they have trouble sleeping and Canada and the United States rank in the top three countries that are sleep deprived. Many adults are sleeping poorly, and it’s taking a serious toll on our health, productivity, public safety, our professional relationships, and even the most intimate aspects of our sex lives, according to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF). Lack of sleep, sleepiness and chronic fatigue has become a sleepidemic and it is time to focus on promoting sleep as a major workplace wellness initiative.
Smart leaders and companies are taking note. They know that getting plenty of sleep is not for the weak, frail or unsuccessful. Click to tweet
Impact of Poor Sleep
In the short-term, lack of sleep can make people more impatient, anxious, sad, and difficult to get along with. In the long-term it can have significant negative impacts on mental health, including increasing anxiety disorders and depression. Illnesses caused by fatigue can be serious. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to the following health problems:
- Worsening of diabetes and other disorders, such as epilepsy
- Heart disease
- Digestion and stomach problems
- Certain cancers
- Reproductive problems
Trouble sleeping and sleepiness can be dangerous:
Sleepiness on the job can be disastrous, not only for the employee, but to the general public as well. The effects of fatigue have often been compared to the effects of alcohol, resulting in impaired judgment and poor performance. We have heard about the role of lack of sleep in many major disasters and it is important that employers and employees work together to combat fatigue and promote positive sleep habits.
- Sleep deprivation, according to the National Sleep Foundation, increases the likelihood of a workplace accident by 70%.
- The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety estimates that 9.5% of all crashes involve drowsiness.
- The National Safety Council estimates that 13% of workplace injuries can be attributed to sleep problems.
Trouble sleeping and fatigue impact productivity:
Sleep deprived workers have a higher rate of absenteeism and presenteeism and lack the engagement that well-rested employees have. A report by the RAND Corporation concludes that sleep deprivation costs the Canadian economy approximately $26 billion per year and that across the country, 80,000 working days are lost each year because of sleep-deprived workers.
- Sleep-related issues are cited as the most common reason people are late for work. Almost 3 in 10 working adults say they have missed work, events, or made errors at work because of sleep related issues in according to the NSF.
- 1 in 4 Canadians have called in sick to get more sleep (ProjectSleep.ca)
- Employees who reported poor sleep quality were 3.1 times more likely to be late for work (AmeriSleep)
- Employees who had trouble sleeping were also 1.9 times likely to fall asleep at work. (AmeriSleep)
Trouble sleeping impacts our relationships:
40% of adults in USA and 34% in Canada considered stress related to family every night or almost every night while lying in bed preparing to sleep. Not only are we worried about our relationships, but our lack of sleep is impacting those relationships. Lack of sleep makes us irritable, grumpy and more emotional. When we’re having trouble sleeping, we’re more likely to overreact to situations that normally wouldn’t rattle us. This can lead to more conflict and less satisfying relationships.
- According to studies conducted by the University of California, sleep deprivation was found to reduce feelings of gratitude especially with our partners
- When we sleep poorly, the parts of our brain devoted to emotional empathy don’t function as well
- People who report sleep disturbance do tend to be more aggressive and violent. Women who sleep poorly are more frequently aggressive toward their partners.
- According to the National Sleep Foundation, 1 in 3 women find themselves too sleepy for sex. Women are less likely to be in the mood for sex if they’re sleep deprived, as shown by a study examining the link between sleep duration and next-day sexual desire (Kalmbach et al., 2015). and more sleep translated to more sexual desire and more likelihood of engaging in sex with a partner.
- Employees who reported poor sleep quality were 2.7 times more likely to be rude to their boss and 2.2 times more likely to be rude to their co-workers (AmeriSleep)
Poor sleep habits contribute to our trouble sleeping:
The physical space where you sleep and the routine before you go to bed, plays a large role in the quality and duration of your sleep. Many of our sleep spaces and routines are not conducive to getting a good night’s sleep. Here are some of the main culprits:
- Nearly 35% of adults fall asleep somewhere other than their bed. (Phillips Global Sleep Survey)
- 11% of adults said they used alcohol, beer or wine at least a few nights a week to help them fall asleep (NSF)
- 46% have used prescription drugs or over-the-counter medications to improve sleep (ProjectSleep.ca)
- 90% of 18-29 years say that they sleep with their phone in or next to their bed. (Phillips Global Sleep Survey)
- 88% of those surveyed have stayed awake binge watching multiple episodes of a TV show or streaming service and 50% have stayed awake to play video games (AASM)
Going to sleep might seem like a natural act, but for some people, sleep is a source of dread. We can get caught in a vicious cycle. Worry keeps us awake at night, and the lack of sleep makes everything feel worse and ‘bigger’ than what it may be. We are tired during the day and we become more anxious and fearful that we will not sleep that night. This prevents us from relaxing and keeps our mind racing as we lay in bed, and the cycle starts all over again.
Being anxious about sleep is actually a form of performance anxiety. It is important to address your thinking patterns. Rather than dwell on the negative effects of sleeplessness, and the numbers on the clock, remind yourself that it’s perfectly normal to have occasional bad nights and that occasional nighttime awakenings are to be expected. Notice but don’t dwell.
To sleep more soundly:
Start by making a good night’s sleep a priority.
- Identify a consistent bedtime that allows you to get the recommended hours of sleep.
- Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine.
- Avoid stimulants like coffee, chocolate, and nicotine before going to sleep,
- Power down at least 30 minutes before bedtime by turning off your phone, computer, tablet and TV. Read a book, listen to soft music, or meditate instead.
- Make sure your bedroom is cool, dark, and quiet. Consider using a fan to drown out excess noise.
- Make sure your mattress and pillows are comfortable.
- Regular exercise will help you sleep better, but limit your workouts to mornings and afternoons.
- Avoid looking at the clock. This can only make you more anxious. Turn the clock away from you.
- If you don’t fall asleep within 15 minutes, go to another room and do something relaxing.
Employer Strategies To Reduce Sleep Deprivation
Reduce workplace fatigue by implementing a Fatigue Risk Management Plan (FRMP)
- Learn about sleepiness in the workplace. Understand its costs, its causes and how fatigue can lead to a higher rate of safety incidents.
- Educate employees on fatigue, sleep health and sleep disorders. Provide strategies to improve alertness on the job as part of a comprehensive employee wellness program. Information about sleep can be incorporated into newsletters or posted in common areas for all employees to see.
- Training. Managers and employees can participate in training to recognize the signs and symptoms of fatigue, and learn what to do to reduce fatigue-related accidents.
- Assessment. Employers can offer their workers access to tools that evaluate their sleep and provide targeted advice based on their results.
- Investigate the causes of fatigue in the workplace and implement positive sleep management strategies.
There are multiple ways that employees and employers can address trouble sleeping and poor sleep habits. The negative impact of fatigue and sleeplessness has reached epidemic proportions and now is the time to make it a priority within our workplace wellness programming.
Do you find it difficult to get a good night sleep?
Is sleep important to your overall health?
Does your company promote positive sleep habits through policies, workshops or handouts?
If you have some strategies to share – comment on this posting!
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