Inadequate sleep is detrimental to overall health, yet it’s a societally normalized practice in industrialized countries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, over one-third of American adults consistently fall short of the recommended seven hours of sleep per night, elevating the issue to a public health epidemic with significant workplace repercussions. Addressing and promoting employee sleep health is imperative for both individual well-being and organizational success.

Sleep Deprivation

Costs Of Sleep Deprivation On Workplace Success

The often-overlooked element of employee wellness—sleep health—holds a pivotal role in a company’s performance. Sleep deprivation among employees is detrimental to an organization’s bottom line and workplace environment.

Higher Healthcare Costs

Sleep deprivation is directly linked to a higher risk of developing chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and depression. These conditions not only affect employee well-being but also increase healthcare costs for employers. Investing in preventive measures can mitigate these expenses.

Decreased Productivity & Cognitive Functioning

Decreased Productivity & Cognitive Functioning

Sleep deprivation impairs day-to-day cognitive functioning, resulting in impaired focus, slower reaction time, decreased problem-solving and decision-making abilities, and even increased susceptibility to formation of false memories.

The financial impacts are profound: a typical company loses $1,293 per year of productivity per employee. This loss increases by 79% for employees at risk for poor sleep, 116% for those getting insufficient sleep, and 144% for individuals with insomnia.

Decreased cognitive functioning also warrants safety concerns. Multiple studies conducted by Harvard researchers concluded that the longer an individual worked while sleep-deprived, the higher their risk for “fatigue-related errors.” In some scenarios, this even included the occurrence of microsleep, short bursts of unintentional sleep that often occur while an individual is completing a routine task, sometimes without their knowledge. In some industries, the medical industry being the most prevalent example, these incidents of microsleep can be the difference between life and death.

Increased Absenteeism

Fatigue and illness, stemming from poor sleep, contribute to higher rates of absenteeism. Workers who consistently experience poor sleep—estimated to be 7% of the US workforce—report more than double the rate of unplanned absenteeism compared to their well-rested counterparts. This results in an estimated $44.6 billion in lost productivity annually.

Lower Morale & Engagement

Lower Morale & Engagement

Sleep-deprived employees are more likely to experience stress, irritability, and disengagement. This can affect teamwork, communication, and overall job satisfaction.

Emotional Well-Being & Work Culture

The emotional strains caused by insufficient sleep can adversely impact workplace relationships and diminish the quality of work life. A positive work culture thrives on engagement, teamwork, and high morale—all of which are compromised when employees are not getting enough rest.

Employer Strategies To Promote Sleep Health 

Employers play a crucial role in supporting employee sleep health, resulting in a healthier, more productive, and engaged workforce.

1. Education & Awareness

Cultivating awareness is the first step toward promoting better sleep habits among employees. This can involve: 

  • Organizing workshops: Cover topics such as the science of sleep, the impact of sleep on health and productivity, and practical tips for improving sleep. 
  • Providing resources: Offer access to sleep health resources, such as informative articles and videos, encouraging employees to take charge of their sleep health.

2. Policy Adjustments

Policy Adjustments

Implement workplace policies that reduce stress and promote work-life balance to support healthier sleep patterns. This can include: 

  • Offering flexible work arrangements: Allowing flexible work hours enables employees to work during their peak productivity times and accommodate their natural sleep cycles. 
  • Limiting after-hours work communication: Establishing boundaries for communications outside of working hours protects work-life balance, allowing employees to disconnect and get adequate rest. 
  • Encouraging regular breaks: Promoting short, regular breaks throughout the workday can reduce stress and fatigue, making it easier for employees to relax and sleep well at night. 

3. Environmental Support 

The physical work environment can support employee wellness and sleep health. Consider these factors: 

  • Lighting: Implement natural or blue-light-reducing lighting to help regulate circadian rhythms. 
  • Noise control: Providing a quiet, peaceful work environment or offering noise-cancellation devices can minimize stress and promote concentration and relaxation. 
  • Ergonomic furniture: Ensuring that workstations are comfortable and ergonomically designed can reduce physical strain and discomfort, aiding in better sleep. 

4. Wellness Programs

Wellness Programs

Incorporating sleep into wellness programs emphasizes its importance for overall health. Effective strategies include: 

  • Stress management techniques: Mindfulness, meditation, and yoga programs can improve sleep quality by reducing anxiety and promoting relaxation. 
  • Fitness initiatives: Encouraging regular exercise can help regulate sleep patterns. Consider organizing group fitness classes and challenges or subsidizing gym memberships. 
  • Nutrition counseling: Emphasize the importance of minimizing caffeine and sugar intake, especially in the latter part of the day, to improve quality of sleep.

Employee Strategies To Practice Better Sleep Health 

In addition to employer initiatives, employees should be proactive about improving their sleep patterns. Considering a large portion of an employee’s day is spent at work, this objective is best initiated through minor alterations of day-to-day behavior.

1. Move More

Physical activity during the day increases sleep quality

Although the advice to get up and move at frequent intervals throughout the day is not a novel idea, it is frequently suggested as a means of losing weight or alleviating back pain. While this can be extremely effective for those two goals, there is additional research showing that increased movement (and exercise in general) throughout the day can greatly improve sleep quality.

2. No Afternoon Coffee

Caffeine consumption late in the day may affect sleep quality and quantity

It’s widely known that caffeine, especially when consumed later in the day, negatively impacts sleep patterns. However, few people understand the impact caffeine late in a day can have on sleep as well as how much it varies from individual to individual. Some are able to drink caffeine within three hours of going to bed and fall asleep, while others have extreme difficulty after drinking caffeine within 10 hours before bedtime. Employees should test different timings for caffeine cut-off times and monitor the effects on sleep to figure out what their limit is, but for many, it may be best to simply cut out caffeine intake after noon.

3. Eat More Nuts

Consuming nuts improves sleep

Magnesium, despite its widespread presence in a variety of foods, is often found to be deficient in many individuals within the general population. This deficiency can stem from insufficient intake of magnesium-rich foods like nuts. Magnesium plays a crucial role in sleep and overall brain health. Almonds, cashews, and peanuts are especially high in magnesium. Since these nuts are often found in office kitchens, employees can conveniently boost magnesium levels and potentially improve sleep by incorporating them into their snack routine.

4. Eat More Before Leaving The Office

18 0919 Eat Meal

Although this factor depends a lot on individual lifestyle and personal schedule, it is important to consider appropriate meal timing when striving to improve sleep. While the effects of food on digestion and sleep quality will vary from individual to individual, in a general sense, eating right before bed will negatively affect sleep quality. The digestion process and potential psychological ramifications caused by late-night snacking result in a more alert and restless body. Instead, individuals will benefit from snacking towards the end of the workday, as opposed to late at night, and eating a moderately sized meal for dinner to feel more comfortable when going to sleep.

5. Prepare A Routine

Bedtime routines keep circadian rhythm in balance

As there is an abundance of research in support of this tip, most people probably already know it anecdotally: having a consistent bedtime routine and sleeping time leads to substantially improved sleeping patterns. These routines keep an individual’s circadian rhythm in check, and they help prime the body and mind for sleep. Once an individual becomes accustomed to a nighttime routine, the process of brushing their teeth, showering, reading, or whatever other actions comprise their routine, preps them for sleep.

Looking for other ways to improve your employees’ sleep? Check out our Sleep Tight Tonight Challenge!
Sleep Tight Tonight Challenge!

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