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Good Sleep Can Boost Health and Productivity at Work

Sleep is a basic human need, as important as eating and breathing. Getting good-quality sleep on a regular basis will reduce your risk for mental health problems and injuries and help boost productivity at work.

According to the Sleep Foundation, adults age 18 and older should get seven or more hours of sleep while teens age 13 and up require eight to 10 hours of sleep per night.

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You may have sleep deficiency if:

  • You don't get enough sleep.
  • You sleep at the wrong time of day.
  • You don't enter all of the stages of sleep that your body and mind need to recharge.
  • You have a sleep disorder that causes insufficient or poor-quality sleep.

This condition is reaching crisis proportions in the U.S. and it can have serious consequences. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • 1 in 3 adults in our country report that they do not get enough sleep.
  • Almost 40% report unintentionally falling asleep during the day at least once a month.
  • An estimated 50 to 70 million Americans have ongoing sleep disorders.

Sleep deprivation can lead to illness, injury and death

If you are lacking sleep on a regular basis, you may have a higher risk for numerous chronic health problems, including:

  • Heart arrhythmias
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Depression

It can also raise your risk of accidental injuries and death, including traffic crashes. According to the CDC, drivers with sleep deprivation:

  • Are less attentive to the road
  • Have slower reaction times
  • Have less ability to make good decisions

Drowsy driving is more common than you may think. A CDC survey revealed:

  • One in 25 adult drivers reported falling asleep at the wheel in the previous 30 days.
  • Drivers who snore or sleep six or fewer hours per night were more likely to report falling asleep at the wheel.
  • It is estimated that more than 6,000 fatal crashes per year are linked to drowsy driving.

Sleep deficiency in the workplace

Lack of sleep can lead to costly consequences in the workplace. Sleep deprived workers are more likely to make mistakes and have accidents on the job. In addition, they are often less productive and engaged, may take more days off work and rack up more medical claims.

In some cases, the way we work can contribute to sleep problems. Working remotely can blur the lines between work and personal time. Many Americans sacrifice sleep for work, which makes them less productive and negatively impacts their ability to think and problem-solve. This becomes a vicious cycle when employees then work longer hours to make up for lost productivity.

According to the Sleep Foundation:

  • The U.S. workday averages 9.5 hours.
  • Studies have revealed that almost 38% of employees experienced fatigue during the workday in the past two weeks.
  • It is estimated that lack of sleep costs employers almost $2,000 per employee annually, including reduced productivity and increased healthcare costs.

The rotating schedules that come with shift work can also contribute to sleeping problems. Shift work disorder occurs in employees with work schedules that include the hours before 7 a.m. and after 6 p.m. and who have trouble getting sufficient sleep.

Symptoms of shift work disorder include:

  • Insomnia
  • Mood problems
  • Poor work performance
  • Health problems such as gastrointestinal, metabolic, reproductive and cardiovascular problems
  • Low testosterone levels
  • Substance abuse

How can employers help?

Employers can help their workers avoid shift-related sleep problems by:

  • Setting later start times. Early morning start times are linked to more fatigue.
  • Carefully monitor new employees. Follow up to make sure new hires are adapting to the shift. Employees who are new to shift work may be more at risk.
  • Make sure the workplace is well lit. A bright workplace can help employees adjust to irregular hours.
  • Encourage breaks. A short break of 15 to 20 minutes can boost productivity. Even 10- to 20-minute "catnaps" can help you feel more alert and refreshed. You can encourage your employees to rest by establishing a dedicated nap area.
  • Carefully consider shift rotation periods. Many employees rotate shifts every five to seven days. This schedule may not give workers enough time to adjust before changing their hours. Longer or shorter rotation periods may cause less disruption to employees' natural rhythms.
  • Provide adequate days off between a shift change. Employees generally need at least 24 hours of rest between every block of night shifts.

Treatment for sleep disorders

There are a variety of lifestyle changes and medical treatments that have been proven to help with sleep disorders, depending on the underlying cause. If you are having ongoing sleep deprivation issues, consult with your doctor.

Allstate Benefits can help

Offering quality health benefits makes a big difference. Call your Allstate Benefits – Group Health sales representative to learn more about how our health coverage options can help reduce your benefits costs and keep your employees healthier.

The Self-Funded Program through Allstate Benefits provides tools for employers owning small to mid-sized businesses to establish a self-funded health benefit plan for their employees. The benefit plan is established by the employer and is not an insurance product. Allstate Benefits is a marketing name for: Integon National Insurance Company in CT, NY and VT; Integon Indemnity Corporation in FL; and National Health Insurance Company in CO, WA and all other states where offered. For employers in the Allstate Benefits Self-Funded Program, stop loss insurance is underwritten by these insurance companies in the noted states.

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