Science has yet to explain exactly why we sleep, but the negative outcomes of sleep deprivation are undeniable. Lack of sleep doesn’t just make someone groggy- it has both short-term and long-term health consequences.
So, why should employers care if their workers don’t get the recommended 7 to 9 hours of shut-eye a night? Exhaustion can not only deplete creativity but alertness as well, leading to accidents that can be both tragic and bank-busting.
If you own a business and would like to prevent accidents and increase employee productivity, read on to learn more about the short-term and long-term effects of sleep deprivation.
The first signs of sleep deprivation
You may have a coffee maker or vending machine in the break room, but Starbucks, Red Bull, and Five Hour Energy cannot replace a good night’s sleep nor are they remedies for chronic fatigue. If a worker tossed and turned the night before, they’ll likely exhibit the first signs of sleep deprivation: excessive sleepiness, yawning, irritability, and fatigue.
Exhaustion impairs brain function as well as emotional and mental stability
Going through the appropriate number of sleep cycles every night is crucial for healthy brain function. There are an unnerving number of effects exhaustion has on the central nervous system, including:
- Making concentrating and retaining new information difficult
- Decreasing coordination and balance
- Provoking mood disturbances, such as irritability, impatience, mood swings, paranoia, suicidal thoughts, and depression
- Promoting impulsive behavior
- Inducing hallucinations
- Compromising decision-making and problem-solving skills
Chronically sleep-deprived workers are even vulnerable to involuntarily falling asleep for a few seconds or minutes during activity. These episodes are known as “microsleep” or brief periods of sleep of which the person remains completely unaware.
One does not need a robust imagination to realize sleep deprivation in workers is a disaster waiting to happen. For employees who must operate heavy machinery, work in dangerous situations, or interact with the public in high pressure environments such as hospitals, exhaustion can be a matter of life or death.
Sleep deprivation has surprising wide-spread health consequences
Increased risk of sickness: diminished productivity and excessive sick days
During sleep, the body produces a variety of hormones and other molecules that are crucial for healthy organ function. While asleep, the body manufactures cytokines, a category of molecules responsible for fighting off infection caused by foreign bodies, such as viruses and bacteria. Sleep deprivation suppresses the immune response and increases vulnerability to sickness and the amount of time needed to recover. For employers, this means reduced productivity and more sick days.
Overeating and high health insurance premiums
Lack of sleep disturbs the balance of the appetite-regulating hormones leptin and ghrelin. Leptin informs your brain that you’re full, while ghrelin tells your brain you need to eat. Insufficient sleep reduces leptin and increases ghrelin, making people overeat and leading to obesity. Obesity and overweight has been linked to a host of health issues, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. While chronic illness may not be at the forefront of a business owner’s concerns, they should be as they could skyrocket the cost of providing employee health benefits.
Employers may consider implementing measures to educate their employees on the risks associated with the lack of sleep including carefully monitoring overtime. However, despite a business owner’s best efforts, accidents may still happen.
Coast General Insurance Brokers offer a variety of coverage options catering to the needs of businesses across California. If you’d like to learn more about protecting your business from liability or offering employee health coverage, contact us! We’ve been helping businesses minimize risk for over 40 years!