Sleep Deprivation and Work Performance

A lack of sleep can make anyone feel sluggish and cranky, but research shows that sleep deprivation can also have serious effects on health and work performance. Everyday work and home responsibilities can often take a toll on employees’ mind and body, affecting their mood, judgment, and decision-making skills. It’s important for employers to address the topic of sleep deprivation with their employees by helping them identify symptoms, and the necessary steps to confront them.

Understanding sleep deprivation

Sleep deprivation can often lead to significant and detrimental consequences, including:

•Significant reduction of alertness – Reduction of 1.5 hours of sleep in one night can reduce daytime alertness by 32 percent.
•Impairment of memory and information processing
•Relationship conflicts with bed partner
•Double the risk of occupational injury
•Higher risk of vehicle crashes

The long term affects of sleep deprivation and sleep disorders may lead to serious illnesses, including:

•High blood pressure
•Heart attack and heart failure
•Depression and other mood disorders
•Sleep and work performance

Sleep deprivation has been linked to performance issues, team cooperation issues, and greater absenteeism. Research shows that working without enough sleep is just as detrimental as working under the influence. Employees will have a more difficult time concentrating on tasks and learning new information.

In our fast paced business dealings, this can mean missing crucial deadlines, difficulty in learning new software and business processes, and poor work quality. Team dynamics can also be affected. Sleep deprived employees will have a decrease in problem solving abilities, communication skills, and greater moodiness that will interfere with group decision-making. Studies show that sleep deprived employees will suffer higher rates of job dissatisfaction and absenteeism. In this case, not only is the employee’s wellbeing at risk, but also the overall profitability of the organization.

Are my employees sleep deprived?

It’s been reported that one-third of individuals have symptoms of insomnia, but only 10% are diagnosed with a sleeping disorder. Many individuals suffer from sleep deprivation without even knowing it. The questions below will help your employees determine if they are at risk:

•Do you experience problems falling asleep or falling back asleep?
•Are you often cranky?
•Do you have trouble thinking at work?
•Are you experiencing a lot of stress in your life?
•Do you snore or move frequently during sleep?
•Are you sleepy during the day?
•Are you overweight?
•Do you wake up with morning headaches?
•Do you find it hard to stay awake while driving, watching TV, reading a book, or attending a meeting?

Answering yes to two or more questions may mean your employees are experiencing sleep deprivation or a sleeping disorder.

Make an effort to spread the word

Educate your employees about the dangers of sleep deprivation as part of your wellness initiatives. Research reliable websites on valuable sleep information and tips, and share the information with your employees. Create campaigns on better sleep habits, and invite sleep experts to conduct seminars. If possible, create a quiet room in your office space where employees can relax. This will help relieve some of their daily work stress, and possibly help them sleep better at night.

The bottom line

Sleep deprivation is a serious condition that can lead to both health and work performance issues. Employees will often experience problems in decision-making, processing new information, and team dynamics when they don’t get enough sleep. HR professionals should make an effort to educate their employees about sleep deprivation issues, and help them identify if they’re at risk. Addressing the problem will help both the employee and the employer sleep a little better in the end.

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