Roughly 30% or more of the workforce in the U.S. are estimated to have some type of sleep disorder according to the Center for Disease Control. Safety, productivity and health are heavily influenced by fatigue in the workplace. Even moderate sleep loss can interfere significantly with performance. Many employers are unaware of the impact that sleep deprivation is having on their operations until an accident occurs. Only then, does the issue come to light. Sleep deprivation can have serious implications. Employers and corporate leaders modeling sleep as a priority, have an opportunity to play a transformative role in the workplace.
Some of the Dangers Associated With a Sleep Deprived Workforce:
- Decreased communication: Sleep deprived individuals may pause for long intervals without reason, enunciate poorly or mumble, mispronounce, slur, repeat themselves or lose their place in a sentence.
- Performance deteriorates: The average functional level of a sleep deprived individual is comparable to the 9th percentile of a non-sleep deprived individual. The risk of errors increases and poor cognitive assimilation and memory occurs. A worker may be unable to fill a leadership role when sleep deprived as emerging research suggest that skills and characteristics essential to strong, constructive leadership are compromised. Workers with a sleep deficiet, lack the ability to tell that a performance decline is occurring.
- Increased risk of distraction: Individuals have been shown to have trouble with maintaining focus on relevant cues, keeping track of events and maintaining interest in outcomes. Research suggests that there is a symbiotic relationship between sleep deprivation and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) due to an overlap of symptoms.
- Driving impairments: While the truck driving industry is well acquainted with this topic, most plant managers are not. When operating dangerous machinery like forklifts, the results of being sleep deprived can be the same as being legally drunk.
- Poor mood appropriate behavior: These can include irritability, impatience, lack of regard for social conventions, inappropriate interpersonal behaviors and unwillingness to engage in forward planning.
- Greater risk taking behavior: Areas that control rational and logical thinking show lower levels of activation with sleep deprivation but increased levels of activation in the brain region associated with risky decision making.
- Compounding effects: Four or more nights of partial sleep deprivation containing less than seven hours of sleep per night, can be equivalent to a total night of sleep deprivation. A single night of sleep deprivation can affect your functioning for up to two weeks.
- Increased risk of health implications: Over time, poor quality sleep significantly increases the risk for a number of serious chronic conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes and depression. These conditions are among the most expensive to employers in terms of health care and among the most likely to undermine productivity at work.