We’ve all heard the commercials touting the newest and greatest energy supplement, and our doctors have all told us we need more rest, more exercise, and better nutrition. But could our chronic workplace fatigue be something more?
Sleep deprivation can happen to anyone and from a wide variety of causes. Regardless, the number of hours the average American sleeps has been trending lower and lower year after year. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to far more severe repercussions than tired employees and reduced productivity.
Common Causes of Sleep Deprivation
When employees report for work groggy and tired regularly, a few things can be causing their plight.
The choices an employee makes in their time can heavily influence the amount of restful sleep they can achieve, from the personal choice to stay up late binge-watching the newest show on Netflix to over-committing to social obligations and many things in between.
There is a difference between social and personal obligations. Social obligations are avoidable; an employee can reschedule a date with a friend but can’t reschedule housework and caring for a child. Especially when children are young or medically fragile, parents can feel the fatigue and burnout faster than most.
Inconsistent Working Hours
Many businesses can’t function without rotating shift work, but shuffling an employee’s schedule too much can cause a significant loss of restful sleep because we can not naturally adjust our circadian rhythms to accommodate shift work. Swapping employee schedules back and forth can mess up the sleep patterns even more than simply having them work late or extended hours.
Chronic illness can wreak havoc on our sleep patterns, causing sleep cycles to be short and incomplete, can lead to chronic sleep deprivation and contribute to more health problems.
It is suggested by CDC studies that nearly 37% of all adults over 18 achieve less than seven hours of sleep per night. The same research shows that people who suffer from clinical obesity are more likely to cut their rest short due to health issues. Two common medical disorders that cause problems related to sleep are sleep apnea and narcolepsy.
Stress and Mental Health
Even with the best tools on hand, the best mattress on the market, the best working schedule, mental health, and stress levels at work and home can cause severe sleep cycle issues. Insomnia and anxiety can make it hard to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Night terrors or PTSD can cause what sleep your employees do get to be anything but restful. Adding medications on top of things may help, but the side effects can also cause issues.
The Cost of Sleep Deprivation
While it’s not readily apparent at first glance, sleep-deprived employees cost your money. It can be more than inattentiveness and easily avoided mistakes at the hands of your tired employees; it can often be significant losses.
Workplace Injury and Accidents
When someone is deprived of sleep, their reflexes and cognitive function are reduced significantly. This can lead to injuries, accidents, and even fatalities, depending on your business industry. Someone who spends most of their workday in an office at their computer is at less risk of causing bodily harm or property damage than someone who drives heavy equipment, but the chances of an incident are similar.
The average workers’ compensation claim costs a business upwards of $40k. If your business experiences more than one or two of these claims, the costs can be high. Sleep deprivation and clumsiness go hand-in-hand.
Loss of Productivity
Drowsy employees are less able to notice things that will cost time and money. The attention span of a rested person is drastically more prolonged than that of someone sleepy.
Further, sleep deprivation can increase the symptoms of some mental health disorders, such as ADHD, ADD, and Dyslexia. Sleepiness can create ample opportunity for simple mistakes to cause massive headaches down the line.
Declining Health of Employees
One or two sleepless nights don’t have too much effect on the long-term health of your employees. However, if the issue is chronic, it can lead to severe health failures down the line.
More than a handful of potentially deadly ailments have been attributed to chronic fatigue, including but not limited to hypertension, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and mental health disorders. In some cases, sleep deprivation combined with other ailments can lead to the death of your employees.
When your staff is tired and sick, they’re more likely to call out and leave your business short-staffed. We can only push ourselves so far before we break, and fatigue is one of the fastest ways to break an employee. When your staff can’t safely attend to their work duties, it’s time to look at how you can help them.
How Can You Help Your Sleep-Deprived Employees Find Rest
Compassion and understanding can make a significant difference in how your management and staff work together. Here are a few tips you can use to encourage better sleep and better health for your employees with the benefits you offer.
- Offer and encourage using paid time off. Don’t offer it and then put a ton of bureaucratic red tape in the way. Show employees that they can take earned time off without repercussions. This does, however, imply that you need to staff your business to provide this option adequately.
- Bright natural light in workspaces helps your employees better regulate their circadian rhythms. It fights depression and helps the body naturally produce the neurochemicals to sleep more soundly at night.
- Meditation is proven to help people sleep better at night and lower heart rate and blood pressure. Encouraging your staff to take self-care time and meditate can help them rest better.
- If your company provides health benefits, make sure your employees understand them and know they can use them when they need to. The health of your employees will reflect in the health of your company.
- Offer perks such as a gym membership discount or an in-office gym space to promote healthy exercise during the workweek. Studies from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and CDC directly link fitness to sleep quality.
Whatever options you offer to help your employees sleep better and perform at their best, make sure they’re getting the most out of it. Offer education of resources for better sleep, and have them check out SleepAre’s Mattress Compare Tool today.