Everyone has a bad night of sleep once in a while. But did you know that over a third of U.S. adults say they don’t get enough sleep most nights? March 14 marks the beginning of Sleep Awareness Week — the perfect time to learn more about how poor sleep can have a massive impact on your employees’ lives. Poor sleep is associated with decreased physical and mental health, but it also raises the risk of on-the-job accidents and can even lead to low job satisfaction. Research has shown that the consequences of poor sleep among employees is costing businesses between $15 billion and $92 billion annually. Here are some of the ways poor sleep may be affecting your employees, and how you can help.
1. People are more susceptible to the common cold and other viruses
People struggling with poor sleep are more likely to get sick, and don’t respond as well to immunizations. In one study, researchers found that people who get less than six hours of sleep per night were four times more likely to get a cold than people who were exposed to the same virus, but slept more than seven hours.
Importantly, a lack of sleep may compromise the effectiveness of certain vaccines. A study from 2020 showed that people who got less sleep had a weaker antibody response to the flu vaccine. Another study involving a Hepatitis B vaccine series showed something similar; and for each additional hour of sleep, there was a 65% increase in antibody response.
2. Employees’ mental health suffers
Research shows strong associations between poor sleep and mental health conditions that can make life harder for your employees. When people struggle with poor sleep, they’re more likely to develop feelings of worry and anxiety. If not addressed, this can lead to difficulties focusing at work, enjoying free time, and taking care of families.
Poor sleep has also been linked to mood. A study from 2011 found that people experiencing poor sleep had double the risk of developing depression compared to people with healthy sleep habits. Unhealthy sleep may also be its own source of anxiety, creating a harmful cycle. People may worry excessively about sleep, and those worries can actually maintain sleep problems.
3. Productivity goes down, and costly accidents go up
Most of us have had one of those days at work. You’ve been sleeping terribly all week, and now you can barely keep your eyes open. You’re trying to focus, but all you can really think about is going home and taking a nap. Or maybe having a fourth cup of coffee. These days are never fun — nor are they productive, or even particularly safe.
Scientists have found that poor sleep impairs decision making, causes slower reaction times, and negatively impacts concentration. These associations might explain why poor sleep is associated with over 7% of workplace accidents, accounting for nearly a quarter of all workplace accident costs. And when it comes to productivity, one study found that poor sleep is costing businesses $59.8 billion annually.
4. People are at high risk for developing chronic disease
Getting enough sleep can protect against developing chronic conditions that put long-term health at risk. Research shows that people who get at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night are at reduced risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Conversely, shorter sleep duration and sleep disturbance are both linked to high blood pressure, which can also increase the risk of heart disease.
Poor sleep is also associated with increased risk for type 2 diabetes, and studies show that people who aren’t able to fall asleep quickly at night have reduced levels of physical activity the following day. Not getting enough sleep has also been identified as a risk factor of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
5. Job satisfaction and career growth go down
While a night without sleep is no walk in the park, one side effect may be surprising: Sleep-deprived people show lower levels of job satisfaction. One study asked 45 people with poor sleep to write down over 500 observations about their jobs over the course of three weeks. The researchers found that poor sleep was negatively related to job satisfaction, meaning that when sleep disturbance went up, job satisfaction went down.
Another study found that people struggling with poor sleep, and other mental health conditions such as feelings of worry and anxiety, reported lower levels of job satisfaction as well. Career progression has also been shown to be at risk when employees are suffering from sleep disturbance, and burnout is also more likely when poor sleep is an issue.
Better sleep leads to better lives, both at and outside of work
When employees have good sleep health, they’re able to stay healthier — both physically and mentally — avoid accidents, and have stronger, more enjoyable careers. While taking care of people is job number one for benefits and wellness leaders, the clear bonus is that it’s also good for business.
One way to help employees handle poor sleep is with Sleepio, a digital therapeutic offered to employees as a benefit. Sleepio is a fully automated solution that uses cognitive and behavioral techniques to help people fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer and feel energized through the day — even if they’ve had trouble sleeping for months or years. To learn more, visit our Sleepio page or attend our fireside chat with Dr. Jen Kanady on World Sleep Day.
Disclaimer: In accordance with FDA’s Current Enforcement Discretion Policy for Digital Health Devices for Psychiatric Disorders, for patients aged 18 years and older, who are followed by and diagnosed with Insomnia Disorder or Generalized Anxiety Disorder by a medical provider, Sleepio and Daylight can be made available as an adjunct to their usual medical care for Insomnia Disorder or Generalized Anxiety Disorder, respectively. Sleepio and Daylight do not replace the care of a medical provider or the patient’s medication. Sleepio and Daylight have not been cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for these indications. Users are directed to not make any changes to their prescribed medication or other type of medical treatment without seeking professional medical advice.
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