As an employer, you are likely concerned about employees who come to work tired, whether they fall asleep on the job, perform poorly or, worse yet, create hazardous situations. Some sleep deprivation and fatigue may be due to lifestyle choices or other outside responsibilities. But for many employees, sleep deprivation is due to shift work, overtime which can cause or worsen existing sleep disorders. In either case, employee sleep disorders pose risks for your business and employees. Fortunately, these sleep disorders are treatable or manageable through behavioral training and medical treatments.

Your company’s health insurance benefits may include and provide coverage for many diseases and conditions, including those that may be the result of sleep disorders and lack of sleep. Employee sleepiness poses issues that you may want to address through education and wellness assessments. Employees who come to work tired can impact productivity, customer service, interpersonal relationships, and accident rates.

Sleepiness In The Workplace

Tiredness on the job is widespread. A study by the Virgin Pulse Institute done in November 2013 with 1,140 respondents from three U.S.-based companies reported that:

• 76% of workers felt tired almost every day of the week.
• 40% dosed off at least once during the month.
• 30% were unhappy or very unhappy with both the quality and quantity of their sleep.
• 15% dozed off at least once a week or once a day.

While the National Sleep Foundation recommends that adult workers get 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night, many average fewer than 6, which may be less than what they need to perform their daily activities at home and at work. For a myriad of reasons, employees may come to work too tired to offer top performance.

In order of importance, factors at home or in their personal lives that contribute to the lack of sleep might include:

• Temperature too hot or too cold 85%
• Unwanted noise 68.6%
• Light too bright 2.8%
• Poor mattress 40%
• Young children 35.9%
• Medical conditions that disturb sleep 10.2%

However, some tiredness on the job can be the result of workplace-related issues. Performance and safety issues that are the result of tiredness and fatigue often happen when employees:

• Work shifts, especially alternating shifts that require rebooting their circadian rhythms.
• Perform hard physical labor.
• Work excessive overtime.
• Work without breaks and/or meals.
• Engage in tedious, repetitive tasks.
• Work in an environment with poor control of temperature, lighting, and noise.

The Consequences

As noted in a recent article in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, tired workers will exhibit certain signs if there is a sleep related issue.

Physical Signs
They show physical signs, such as a drooped head or eyelids, frequent yawning, rubbing their eyes, or micro-sleeping for very short periods of time.

Mental And Performance Signs
They show mental and performance signs that may manifest as an inability to concentrate, inattention, forgetting to communicate information, compromised memory and recall, and incorrectly performing tasks.

Emotional And Behavioral Signs
They show emotional and behavioral signs, such as uncharacteristic quietness, withdrawal, moodiness, low energy, and lacking motivation to perform work well.

A poll done by Sleep in America, breaks down symptoms of people who are sleepy. They have trouble:

• Concentrating on what is said 68%
• Handling stress 65%
• Relating with others 38%
• Handling problem-solving tasks 57%
• Listening 57%
• Decision-making 56%

Many of these conditions lead to sleep deprivation, inability to fall asleep, or inability to get enough sleep to be alert on the job. Since about 25% of American workers are on permanent or rotating shifts, they may suffer from shift work sleep disorders, other circadian rhythm disorders, or be subject to increase risk for accidents while driving or operating machinery. Those who have respiratory problems such as sleep apnea or narcolepsy can incapacitate a driver, threatening their life and the lives of the people around them. This is such a concern that the Department of Transportation (DOT) requires a screening of potential employees.

Issues Important To Address

That’s not the only risk sleep issues can pose to your employees and your business. Sleepy workers often:

• Are late to work 14%
• Stay home from work 4%
• Fall sleep on the job 7%
• Make errors 19%
• Get injured 2%

Workers who do not get enough sleep do not function as well on the job, are subject to injuries, and have higher rates of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and depression. They have more accidents, as evidenced from studies about personnel in airline transportation, the medical field, safety personnel, trucking, and many other industries that include night hours and shifts. As a result, productivity falls, along with employee health and safety, which leads to a rise in employer health insurance payments, as well as in worker’s compensation rates, if people are injured on the job.

As an employer, you have a major stake in reducing employer fatigue, sleepiness, and tiredness.

How The Center For Sleep Medicine Can Help

Combating sleepiness requires a multi-phased program of employee education, fatigue management, and behavioral techniques to help employees overcome challenges to sleeping, as well as an evaluation of where employer practices can be modified to minimize the risks of fatigue.

Setting up and implementing these programs requires the expertise of the sleep professionals at the Center for Sleep Medicine, experts in sleep disorders and fatigue management. We can help you create policies and procedures to reduce incidents and accidents on the job, while helping employees manage sleep issues through behavioral changes.

For information about setting up a corporate plan for your employees, contact us at 708-364-0261 or by the Contact Us Form.

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Related Resources

Educational Video: Sleepless in America


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