Naps, better employee scheduling, and lighting adjustments are just a few ways you might better improve your sleep health and become a better employee (or, in the case of parents, a better caregiver). Let's break it down.
Big Picture Solutions
Change the social agenda to favor sleep
- Maybe we should just get rid of Daylight Savings Time; it’s proven to wreak havoc on everybody, whether you are an office worker on a morning commute, a long-haul truck driver, a nurse, or a judge. (The Ringer, June 14, 2016)
- While we’re at it, let’s talk about napping at work. It’s not a bad thing to catch a power nap; in fact, studies bear out the advantages to a quick refresher after lunch, such as improved thinking and memory skills. (The Independent, January 6, 2017)
Change the workplace culture
- Workaholism is so 20th century. Yet, workers in corporate Japan often clock 80 hours of overtime a month (Financial Times, January 14, 2017). How does that not eventually lead to poor health, absenteeism, workplace accidents, mood disorders (which impact entire departments), and expensive mistakes in judgment? Corporate culture needs to acknowledge it sets impossible standards for workers and that their bottom line costs are preventable and largely a side effect of these standards.
- Let’s face it… people in leadership have more reason to get their sleep, not less. Check out what Forbes has to say about sleep as it relates to effective leadership in this January 5, 2017 editorial.
- Vilify those who would shame anyone for taking a rest in the middle of the day (we’re talking to you, Quentin Tarantino). Richard Branson “caught” one of his employees asleep but cut him slack because he realizes the guy needed his rest. (Huffington Post Sleep+Wellness, June 13, 2016)
- This woman demanded, and finally received, accommodations to help her keep her job (which basically amounted to flex time). Many jobs don’t require a 9 to 5 presence, it’s just an antiquated model for doing business. If you have better alertness and can be more productive outside this window and it won’t impact your employer or other employees, it’s well worth asking for a solution that helps you to be healthier and happier. (Circadian Sleep Disorders Network, August 9, 2016)
- “Light is not just important for our sight—it also helps regulate our body clock and many aspects of our health.“—Stephen Matthews for The Daily Mail (October 13, 2016). This author argues that it’s our workplace surroundings that might be messing with our circadian rhythms.
- Sometimes it just takes a little education to raise a lot of awareness. Medical personnel might consider learning more about how their sleep habits can influence their ability to work safely in a patient-care environment. A conference like this one coming up in Hawaii, which teaches sleep health literacy to healthcare workers, could be an excellent solution. (Hawaii News Now, January 26, 2017)
Take responsibility for your part of the equation
- If you struggle to get to sleep at night, it might be as simple as improving your sleep hygiene (CNBC, January 20, 2017), especially as it relates to dealing with sleep onset insomnia, the time when many people have racing thoughts and anxiety about—you guessed it!—work.
- Maybe it’s time you had that discussion with your doctor about your snoring (or your spouse’s snoring). Maybe your problem with fatigue and daytime sleepiness cannot be blamed on work, but on something you suspect might look or feel like a sleep disorder. It’s okay, a lot of people have sleep disorders, and they are treatable. This author finally addressed his insomnia, discovered he had untreated sleep apnea, and how his working life is greatly improved because of it. (Economic Times, August 8, 2016)
- Do you operate commercial vehicles? Then you probably know that employers will often require you to have regular physicals in order to ensure you can be the safest driver in their force. If you’re unclear as to why these physicals are necessary, you can learn more about them in this Sleep Resolutions post. (January 30, 2017)
- Police officers can now link to a free 35-minute Police Sleep Training Video offered by Dr. Richard Shane, founder of Sleep Easily, who offers this resource to police departments, police magazines or associations to help law enforcement officers learn more about the importance of managing their shift work challenges. (Huffington Post Sleep+Wellness, November 30, 2016)
- Finally, don’t think for a minute that sleeping less will get you ahead of the pack at work; this research using Jawbone technology published in Pay Scale (December 9, 2016) shows research to indicate how “more sleep equals more money.”
- Are you an employer? Maybe your human resources team needs to push sleep health front and center as part of its own healthy employee initiative. This article in BedTimes (January 16, 2017) highlights why employee sleep health needs to be prioritized and offers ideas for how you can achieve this goal.
- Recognizing the challenges of shift work disorder among healthcare workers is a tall order for medical employers to fill, but one way they can do that is by being more thoughtful about times between shifts; fewer hours of turnaround between shifts can lead to higher rates of sick leave if these workers are unable to adequately catch up on lost sleep. (Fox News, November 25, 2017)
- It’s time to be cognizant about your employee’s chronotypes and how they might be having a negative impact on their work (Sound Sleep Health, September 28, 2016). Some people are natural early risers, while others are far more productive at night. For those employees struggling with alertness and energy while on the job, think about ways to make their lives easier through scheduling changes; not only will it be better for their health, but it will also improve your bottom line.
- If you’re an employer who needs to check on workers and their “fitness for duty,” this is a legitimate goal. But be wary of making impossible demands on employees to document proof of health: a recent lawsuit filed in the federal district court in Massachusetts suggests you could overreach and find yourself in legal trouble for it. (HR Business & Legal Resources, December 13, 20016)
- Make sure the workplace environment is safe and healthy for your employees. Some things, like machine operation safety, are obvious, but what about people who work in agricultural jobs?
- This story relates to gardeners and the work they do, which can expose them to pesticides which are now being shown to mess with their sleep health. (Economic Times, January 20, 2017).
- Also, consider the plight of long-haul truck drivers who are often left without options for pulling over and sleeping at night; this can leave to dangerous sleeping conditions they should not be forced to endure while on the job. (SF Gate, January 20, 2017)
- An article in the Straits Times suggests that it’s not that express bus transport in Malaysia is unsafe, but rather that the drivers aren’t making an adequate income from it, so they skimp on sleep to “chase trips” to earn a fair wage; this, after a Malaysian express bus driver fell asleep at the wheel last Christmas Eve, crashed, and killed 14 passengers. (January 1, 2017)
- Workplace harassment also needs to be eradicated; research shows that people who are targets of workplace discrimination suffer more sleep loss and have poorer quality sleep than their unmolested coworkers. (Huffington Post, January 17, 2017)
Solutions for at-home caregivers
- Caring full-time for young children, elderly family members (or both, at the same time) can be exhausting. Some solutions include:
- Learning everything you can about helping baby to sleep so that you can get your sleep, too (HuffPost Baby Bible, January 17, 2017).
- Advance planning for maternity leave that allows you to recover fully from labor and delivery and settle into the “new normal” of parenthood, which can include adequate sleep, if you are smart about it (US News & World Report, January 17, 2017).
- For entrepreneurs caring for newborns, here are some tips for avoiding sleep deprivation, which can be a double whammy for this population (Credit.com, January 2, 2017)
Don’t forget our veterans