The Working Dead. Is Sleep Deprivation Turning Your Employees Into Zombies?

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(Last Updated On: August 19, 2017)

“According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), over 81 million or ⅓ of American adults are chronically sleep deprived and this number is rising. The problem is so prevalent that the CDC has declared insufficient sleep a “public health epidemic”.

In 2016, Rand Europe published the study, “Why Sleep Matters, the economic costs of insufficient sleep” where they presented the causes, consequences, and related economic costs of insufficient sleep. The study found that the US loses up to $411 billion dollars a year due to sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation is also linked to lower productivity, higher mortality risk, acute health risks, and workplace accidents which can have a detrimental effect on businesses.

Productivity in the workplace is affected by insufficient sleep with over 9.8 million hours lost a year. Workforces are smaller, have less skills, and sleep deprived workers tend to be less attentive and absent more often. In fact, workers who sleep less than 7 hours a night lose 10 days per year due to absenteeism or presenteeism.
Individuals that sleep less than 6 hours per night have a 13% higher mortality risk than an individual who sleeps between 7 and 9 hours on a regular basis. In addition, insufficient sleep duration has been linked to 7 of the 15 leading causes of death in the United States.

From a health perspective, lack of sleep can increase a business’ health care spend. For those employees getting less than 6 hours of sleep consistently, there is an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.

Insufficient sleep can have catastrophic effects on workplace safety. Historically, It has been linked to a number of devastations including the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the Three Mile Island nuclear incident, and the Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy. According to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, highly fatigued are 70% more likely to be involved in workplace accidents and 20% of all serious car crash injuries are associated with driver sleepiness.

Employers need to acknowledge the adverse effects of insufficient sleep on their businesses. In order to reverse the trend, an investment in sleep needs to be an organizational priority. Employees should be encouraged to maintain a healthy work-life balance along with schedules that allow for recovery. Implementing an employee sleep health program at the workplace can provide awareness, education, and access to treatment for any employee who is suffering from the negative effects of sleep deprivation.

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