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Lack of Sleep Affects Worker Productivity, Safety

Think an employee yawning at their desk is no big deal? That sleepy worker is not only likely less productive but also at greater risk for workplace injury and chronic health problems.    
  •  Insomnia costs American companies $63 billion each year in lost productivity.
  • Insomnia was associated with the equivalent of 11.3 days of lost work performance per year
  •  Sleep-deprived employees reported lower motivation to learn and difficulty in conversations and generating new ideas, and were less likely to manage competing demands or stay focused in meetings. Not to mention they were crankier.

And, there are even more serious dangers to going to work drowsy. Missing just one night’s sleep creates a similar effect to having a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit to drive, said sleep psychologist William David Brown. He estimated about one-third of employees are coming to work “with an equivalent impairment of being intoxicated.”

“Workplace safety is compromised significantly when employees are suffering from fatigue due to lack of sleep, as this drastically increases the chance of an employee being injured in the workplace,” said Bill Wilson, vice president of Sales and Marketing for VGM Insurance.

How much Sleep is Enough?

Adults should average seven hours of sleep a night. However, about one-third of Americans don’t get enough sleep, according to the 2016 County Health Rankings report. Insufficient sleep was among the report’s three new health-related measures. The highest rate of insufficient sleep was found in the Southeastern states.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that 10 percent of Americans experience chronic insomnia. People with insomnia have an inability to fall or stay asleep. Sometimes the fear of not being able to sleep exacerbates the problem.

Workplace Safety

Sleepy adults are more likely to be injured, and if they are at work, that can result in a worker’s compensation claim.

“Workers’ compensation claims are on the rise and pose a threat to organizations,” Wilson said, “not only in terms of loss of productivity and low employee morale, but in terms of the direct effect that claims have on future workers’ compensation costs for the organization.”

The average cost of a workers’ compensation claim has increased significantly over the past several years, Wilson said, adding that it’s imperative for companies to take the steps to provide a safe workplace for their employees and reduce the risk of employee injuries.

Driving and Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) affects at least 25 million Americans and causes excessive daytime sleepiness, sometimes while driving or operating dangerous equipment. If your delivery drivers have untreated OSA, they are at much greater risk for crashes. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine cited a study, published in the journal Sleep, that found truck drivers who didn’t comply with PAP (positive airway pressure) therapy had five times the risk for “serious, preventable crashes.”

Medical Costs

The CDC also associates insufficient sleep with machinery accidents and chronic diseases and conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and depression. One industry expert put the average cost per year at $1,200 for medical and other expenses for sleep-deprived workers.

There are steps employers can take to reduce those costs. For example, increasing awareness and encouraging employees to improve their health can be steps toward reducing workers’ compensation claims, Wilson said.

“A simple risk management practice for any organization would be to incorporate education about sleep into regular employee health and wellness training or education,” said Wilson, “reminding them of the benefits of healthy sleep to both their productivity and safety in the workplace and their general well-being.”

The American Sleep Apnea Association has designated this month as Sleeptember® to encourage better sleep habits. Although September is nearly over, improving sleep health for yourself and your employees can be a year-round effort.

What You Should Know

VGMU Online Education offers several courses to educate your staff about OSA, aging and sleep, and CPAPs. For more information about VGMU’s course offerings, call Megan Kraft, VGM Education inside sales and customer service manager, at 888-786-6628.

National Sleep Services, a division of VGM Group, Inc., provides fatigue management safety programs for transportation workers nationwide. NSS works with transportation companies to screen, diagnose, and treat OSA.

Article by: Dorothy de Souza Guedes, VGM Education


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