The effects of sleep-deprived employees in the workplace is having a strain on productivity and even safety, with an estimated two in five Australian adults affected by some degree of inadequate sleep.
Referring to figures from the Sleep Health Foundation that found an estimated 40 per cent of Australians suffer some form of shortfall in sleeping hours, AccessEAP’s director of clinical services, Marcela Slepica, said the effects of fatigue on the workplace are rapidly becoming “dangerous” – both for employees and those who employ them.
“Constant fatigue can really start to impact our productivity, accuracy and efficiency in the workplace. This can become extremely dangerous for employees and their employers, especially those working with machinery,” she said.
According to Ms Slepica, the figures speak for themselves about the significance of sleep deprivation – in 2016 alone, a total of 3,017 deaths were linked directly to sleep deprivation, including 394 fatalities from industrial accidents and car accidents.
Part of the problem, she said, is that surviving on minimal sleep has become something of a badge of honour, where long hours and a blurring of the lines between work and home activities can act as triggers for poor sleeping habit.
However, the irony is that spending less time asleep in a bid to get more done actually means we achieve less overall.
“Having sufficient, regular, good quality sleep is essential to maintain a strong, robust immune system so we can function effectively in our busy lives,” said Ms Slepica.
Sleep also has direct implications on our long-term health, with evidence connecting sleep loss with higher risks of developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer, as well as mental health problems.
“It can be an expanding circle; a lack of sleep creates fatigue which impacts physical and then mental wellbeing and getting between eight to nine hours sleep a night can be difficult to achieve,” Ms Slepica said.
“However, if we review our sleep pattern there are probably some small things we can do to make our routine healthier – and we’re likely to be surprised by the difference they make.”
For anyone struggling to get to sleep at night, Ms Slepica recommends:
- Developing a set time to go to bed each night, and consistently sticking to it
- Taking a warm shower or bath before bed to calm the mind
- Avoid stimulants – including alcohol and spicy food – close to bed time
- Remove electronic distractions from the bedroom
- Take power naps and learn mindfulness techniques during the day to reduce stress and anxiety, which are themselves not conducive to sleep