Here’s an eye-opening statistic: U.S. workers are swapping their slumber in favor of working longer hours. And it is costing companies a pretty penny.
A new study published this month in the journal Sleep, shows that more people –no matter what their socio-economic background– are exchanging shut eye for time on the clock. The study gathered responses from 124,517 Americans ages 15 years and older who completed the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) between 2003 and 2011.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) find that as many as one third (30 percent) of employed U.S. adults sleeps six hours or less in a 24-hour period. That’s just not enough according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine which advises getting between seven to nine hours per night for optimal health, productivity and daytime alertness.
Those who were sleeping six hours or less worked just over one and a half more hours during the week and nearly two more hours on weekends or holidays. No surprise that those who spent the least time in dreamland were working more than one job. They don’t call it moonlighting for nothing, after all.
And those who had long treks to work were also more likely to set their alarms earlier in order to hit the road. Those who were unemployed were getting plenty of shut eye.
That means that we are a country filled with sleep-deprived workers. Indeed, according to a study released by the Virgin Pulse Institute back in May, more than three quarters (76 percent) of the U.S. workforce is tired during the work week. Fifteen percent of those surveyed reported they were so drowsy they nodded off at least once a week. And those are just the ones who admitted it.
You wouldn’t want to show up to work drunk, would you? But that is just what Jennifer Turgiss, a coauthor of the Virgin Pulse study says happens when an employee shows up to work sleep deprived.
The problem, according to Virgin Pulse Institute’s study, goes beyond work stress and commuting distances. The environment had plenty of impact with such disruptors as:
- room temperature (85.2 percent)
- their partner (71.9 percent)
- noise (68.6 percent)
- too bright light (52.8 percent)
- mattress (40 percent)
- and young children (35.9 percent)
So while a working stiff may not have a lot of control over how much traffic is on the road when he or she is driving to work, they can turn down the thermostat, turn off the music or television, turn down the lights, and encourage their partner to try a sinus strip or take other measures to silence the snoring.
Another big wrench in the quest for uninterrupted sleep is that little device you keep in your pocket that connects you to the rest of the world. Mobile devices checked before bed and held close to the pillow at night are wreaking havoc on sleep cycles.
It starts with serving up stimulation just when you’re supposed to be winding down. Looking at photos, Facebook posts, articles, or worse, work email does the opposite of soothe.
The LED screen on your phone also interrupts natural circadian rhythms by upsetting the balance of light and dark. If it lights up in the middle of the night when you’re unconscious, that brightness inhibits melatonin, the hormone that helps you sleep. As melatonin wanes in the blue light from your device, it triggers the brain to think daylight is approaching, even if the alarm won’t go off for hours.
Employers take heed. Sleep deprived staff can be costly. One survey estimated that lack of sleep cost as much as $1,967 per employee annually in the form of absence as well as loss of productivity.