Fatigued employees can face 'serious consequences'
Roughly 20 to 30 per cent of people will say that occasionally they have a bad night and can’t sleep.
When it comes to insomnia disorder, which is more chronic in nature, and means people don’t sleep well for several nights a week, that applies to about 10 per cent of the adult population, according to Omrit Silberstein, clinical psychologist in Mamaroneck, NY, and a member of Mattress Clarity’s sleep expert network.
For employers, this potentially could mean ongoing issues while on the job, she says.
“When I speak to my patients and I ask them about what happens when you don’t get enough sleep, they say at work especially they can do the mundane stuff but it’s really hard with complex tasks, where you really have to focus — that’s the biggest problem. Maybe you’re not as productive as you could have been; people tend to make more errors.”
Almost one-third of workers said they take time to nap while working from home, found a survey.
This lack of sleep can also easily lead to absences, says Silberstein.
“Sometimes it’s easier to stay home; sometimes you come in late because if you finally get asleep, you don’t want to wake up to the alarm.”
Besides the physical toll, being tired all the time can affect a person’s mental wellbeing, she says.
“If you’re tired because you didn’t get enough sleep, it’s harder to regulate your mood; it’s harder to exercise so you might skip exercise. We tend to make poor food choices — it’s just easier to go for the high-sugar, high-salt, high-fat foods, rather than going to the effort of something healthier. Even if it’s already made for you, people still will go for less-healthy options.”
According to Public Health Agency of Canada, people between 18 and 64 should get about seven to nine hours each night and 36.3 per cent of those who don’t report chronic stress, compared to 23.2 per cent for those who do.
While these problems are serious, sometimes poor sleep can also be deadly, says Silberstein.
“If someone has sleep apnea, the consequences can be fatal because it is possible for someone to fall asleep on the job, and when they do, depending on the job — if you are a pilot or a nurse or a doctor or a truck driver, and have that condition — you can make mistakes that can cause someone to die.”
Elon Musk apparently has asked employees to sleep at Twitter offices.
Waking up to the problem
So what can employers do to alleviate this potentially debilitating issue?
Adjusting shift schedules for those who are suffering might be one way to alleviate the concern — but understanding is also key, she says.
“And just being aware of the problems because I wouldn’t say it’s a disability, but in a way it’s an invisible disability where you can have insomnia; you still show up for work, and nobody knows what you’re going through.”
Employers and leaders should also be mindful that treatments are an option, according to Silberstein and it’s a great idea to include these in your benefits package.
“Some of them would be behavioural, some of them would be with consultation with a physician.”
As well, “CBT is highly effective when it comes to chronic insomnia, so more and more people need to know about it. Cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia, and short-term treatment is highly effective,” she says.