Are your employees getting enough sleep?

The occasional night without sleep can leave anyone irritated and grouchy. But it might not cause much harm to long-term health and business productivity. Chronic poor sleep is defined as several consecutive nights of insufficient sleep. That may have mental health effects that can become much more serious, affecting concentration and decision-making. These issues can ultimately seep into the workplace. Chronic poor sleep can make employees less productive, which can be damaging to employers’ bottom lines.

A healthy night’s sleep lasts seven or more hours. It’s essential for health, performance and safety at work. Unfortunately, the average American sleeps 6.8 hours a night (in 2013, the last year measured).1 And 40 percent slept for fewer than six hours. Studies show that getting so little sleep increases the risk of chronic health conditions such as:

  • Obesity
  • Stroke
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart disease

It’s also directly associated with loss of productivity at work. A study by NCBI found that poor sleep and fatigue cost employers $1,967 per employee per year. That adds up to about 1.23 million lost working days annually. 2

How you can help
Employers can address sleep as part of a workplace wellness program. This may increase productivity and safety in the workplace as well as overall employee health and well-being. Installing sleep pods and nap rooms is likely not an option. But employers can consider solutions like comprehensive coaching programs. These programs educate employees, empower them with strategies and support healthy sleep habits.

As with any behavior change process, awareness is the first step. Regardless of program offerings, employers are well-positioned to educate their employees on the benefits of sleep. Encourage employees to recharge on weekends and during vacations to help create a culture that values adequate rest. It’s also useful to offer employees access to tools and technology that provide targeted advice and evidence-based strategies for better sleep. Train managers on how to recognize and address symptoms of fatigue. Taking these simple steps can benefit overall business performance, and the health and productivity of individual employees.

Learn how Optum® can help your employees make sleep an integral part of their well-being.

And feel free to add your comments about what has worked for your company to help employees up their sleep quotient.

1 Jones JM. In U.S., 40% get less than recommended amount of sleep. Gallup News. Dec. 19, 2013.
2 Hafner M, Stepanek M, Taylor J, Troxel WM, van Stolk C. Why sleep matters — the economic costs of insufficient sleep: A cross-country comparative analysis. Rand Health Q. 2017;6(4), 11.


About the author

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Heather MacAyeal Hardy, CHC AADP
Senior Director, On-Site Health Promotion and Wellness Coaching, Prevention Solutions, Optum

Heather is a certified Health and Wellness Coach. In her role at Optum, she leads product innovation and engagement capabilities. She and her on-site staff help our customers enhance their consumer health engagement and company culture. The goal is to influence positive behavior change that ultimately affects our client’s population health. Heather joined Optum on-site services in 2014. Prior to taking on the product leadership role, she served both as a coach and health promotion specialist in the field. Her work with opioid awareness campaigns and corporate wellness strategy has earned her clients local and national recognition.

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