Regular Sleep and Your Company’s Bottom Line
Companies, organizations and institutions consider revenue and profit when making most decisions. While the staff of Human Resources departments have to handle a wide range of human concerns and manage diverse objectives, profits nearly always factor into if, and how, they plan to respond. So, when it comes to workforce sleeping habits, consider the importance of regular sleep and your company’s bottom line: profit!
How Common is Irregular Sleep Anyway?
According to a consensus of numerous US health organizations, adults aged 18 to 64 require seven to nine hours of sleep per night. In contrast, a Rand Corporation survey found that a third of all Americans get six or less hours of sleep. Gallop estimates that approximately 45 percent of working adults in their prime (18 to 49) get six or fewer hours of sleep on average. Furthermore, this level of sleep deprivation has grown over time, rising from 11 percent for all American adults in 1942 to a whopping 40 percent in 2013. The national Centers for Disease Control (CDC), reflecting the seriousness of the problem, have declared insufficient sleep a public health disorder.
Regular Sleep Is the Bottom Line
Why is sleep the bottom line? According to a Rand Corporation study of OECD member countries, insufficient sleep reduced the gross domestic product (GDP) of the US by three percent or an equivalent of $411 billion. Just increasing sleep by one hour could add billions of dollars to the US economy.
Workplace Issues Due to Insufficient Sleep
How does insufficient sleep effect the workplace? Studies have shown, and there is increasing agreement within the health community, that regularly sleeping six hours or less is associated with:
- Increased mortality
- Alcohol abuse
- Psychosocial stress
- Cognitive impairment
- Productivity loss
Each of these effects is associated with other health complications not to mention the social impact of loosing a family member and his/her earning capacity and/or dealing with additional care responsibilities and bills.
What HR Can Do to Support Better Regular Sleep Patterns
There are plenty of ways that Human Resources can help address this important public health problem. Here are just a few ideas:
- Help staff evaluate their sleep habits. This could be executed through a survey or by the use of simple sleep devices. The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) is apt to have good suggestions.
- Offer a short educational workshop on the importance of sleep and how to create a healthy regular sleep schedule.
- Develop a site on your intranet with sleep-related resources (information, referrals, guided meditations, etc).
- Survey sleep related issues within your company, organization or institution. Establish a baseline and monitor progress. Use the data to design future interventions and policies.
- Alter the communication norms and policies of your workplace to exclude obligatory work emails, texts and calls after regular work hours or at least after 7:00pm.
- Where possible allow staff to telecommute, especially when someone is under a tight deadline and working exceptionally long hours. Eliminating the commute can save some workers two or more hours.
- Offer additional assistance where needed through your benefits or staff development program.
Three Simple Ways to Promote More Regular Sleep
For most people establishing a regular good sleep schedule is not hard once they actually put their mind to it. However, a study conducted by the NSF found that only 10 percent of respondents indicated that adequate sleep was more important to them than fitness, nutrition, work and hobbies. People just don’t understand how valuable sleep really is. Consequently, education of workers is definitely an important part of the solution. Offering and supporting simple solutions is also key.
Here are three straight-forward steps you can share with your staff:
- Go to sleep at the same time every night, including the weekends.
- Wake up at the same time every day, including the weekends.
- Create good pre-bedtime routine. To keep this simple. Do the following:
- Get enough sleep (seven to nine hours), and avoid taking long catch-up naps during the day.
- Avoid stimulants (coffee, most soft drinks, etc) in the evening.
- If over 30, consider drinking less alcohol in evening. That includes wine and beer. Sorry, but tolerance does change with age.
- Cut out screen viewing at least 30 minutes before your scheduled bedtime.
For more details and ideas, see my free podcast and accompanying guided meditation using breath work, progressive muscle relaxation and guided visualization for relaxation and sleep. It’s available to anyone on line.
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