Employee Education: The Hefty Price Sleep Disorders are Costing American Employers and Workers Each Year

In honor of the National Sleep Foundation’s 25th anniversary this year, we are taking a closer look at how sleep, or rather the lack of it, is impacting American lives. We got down to the specifics of what sleep deprivation is really costing in regards to employees’ health and employers’ pocketbooks. 

Did you know that 40 million Americans are suffering from chronic insomnia (the difficulty falling or poor-quality sleep) each year and more than 20 million people are experiencing occasional sleeping problems?  Medical costs alone are estimated at $16 billion annually.

What are some potential problems resulting from an adult with a sleep disorder? 

Studies show that getting inadequate sleep on a regular basis can make a big impact on a person’s health and productivity. Employees can experience any number of issues including weight gain, emotional problems, anxiety, depression, hormone imbalance, poor memory, decreased mood, weaker immune system and increased risk of chronic disease including high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke and heart and kidney disease. 

What are working adults with insomnia costing employers?

Employers unfortunately pay the cost for employees who have insomnia in the way of higher health costs, absenteeism, lower productivity and increased accidents and injuries due to drowsiness and memory issues. 

According to an American Insomnia Survey, which was part of a larger study conducted by Harvard Medical School, the costs for an average U.S worker who has insomnia is approximately 11.3 days lost in productivity alone or $2,280 each year. That amounts to a collective cost of $63.2 billion each year, and it doesn’t include the health costs that can be triggered by sleep disorders as mentioned above. This cost takes into consideration not only lost days at work but overall lower productivity on the days sleep-deprived employees do go to work.

Are energy drinks, stimulants, pharmaceuticals or more caffeine a good way to solve the problem?

Not really. According to the National Sleep Foundation, there are more natural ways to get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep needed for the average adult between 18-65 years old.  We shared some tips in our last issue on men’s health and here are some more:

1.    Incorporate a power nap into your day. Power naps have been proven to pack a punch for sleep-deprived workers. A quick 20-minute nap on your break (or 10-15 minute down time in a quiet area) afterwards has been shown to increase creativity, improve mood, give an energy burst and improve productivity the rest of the day. Check with your HR Department to see if there is a quiet area or back office you can use on your break. 
2.    Exercise. Fitting in time before or after work or at lunch for some cardio (such as running, walking, cycling, swimming or lifting weights) has been shown to help people get to sleep easier at night.
3.    Keep to a regular sleep schedule. While the tendency is to stay up late on your days off, research shows that it is best to go to bed at the same time every night including weekends.
4.    Make your bedroom more sleep friendly. For optimum sleeping, keep your bedroom temperature cool at 65 degrees. It is also best to keep the room dark and reduce noise by wearing ear plugs or using a fan to create background noise. 
5.    Use a sleep diary. To help track your sleep patterns and see how your habits are helping you sleep (or not), download this sleep diary available through the National Sleep Foundation.
6.    Try a sleep mobile app. We found a post that listed some good sleep apps to help with sleeping. 

For more tips and information on getting a better night’s sleep, go to www.sleepfoundation.org.