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More Companies Explore Ways to Help Workers Sleep Better

January 24, 2013

Did you get a good night’s sleep last night? If you’re like most Americans, chances are you didn’t and that’s now cutting into your productivity at work.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 40 million U.S workers do not get enough sleep. According to Inc.com, researchers at Harvard Medical School found that this lack of rest causes U.S. workers to lose 11.3 days of productivity a year because employees show up to work, but perform at subpar levels. Furthermore, that same study estimated that U.S. companies lose approximately $63.2 billion a year due to this loss of productivity.

While sleep deprivation can affect any worker, certain professions and industries are harder hit than others. For example, The Wall Street Journal noted that investment bankers often run on five or six hours of sleep, which is far less than the recommended seven to nine hours. Healthcare professionals and those in manufacturing are also more susceptible to chronic exhaustion because of long hours or overnight shifts.

Though lowered productivity may seem like an obvious outcome of sleep deprivation to some, The Wall Street Journal’s At Work blog pointed out that employers have overlooked the negative effects of exhaustion for years. Recently, however, some companies, including both start-ups and big name corporations such as Procter & Gamble and Goldman Sachs Group, have begun to take notice and are now exploring potential solutions. For instance, some companies have invested in sleep-hygiene workshops, nap pods and even special lighting that helps regulate melatonin, a sleep hormone.

For years, experts have pointed out the harm that chronic exhaustion can cause both on the human body as well as on productivity at work or school.

“If we treated machinery like we treat the human body, there would be breakdowns all the time,” said James Maas, author or “Sleep for Success” and a former Cornell University psychologist.

So, how do you get better rest so that you can be more productive at work? At Work offered a few tips. For instance, sleep expert Nancy Rothstein recommended turning off all screen devices—laptops, smartphones, iPads—at least an hour before going to bed. These devices emit blue light that can disrupt melatonin production, causing your body to think it is daytime.

Exposure to natural light is also helpful as it stops melatonin. Take a break and walk outside to fight off that sleepy feeling during the workday.

According to Inc.com, there are also devices that can monitor and analyze your sleep habits to help you get a better night’s rest. For example, GEAR4, a start-up, created the Renew SleepClock. The device works with an iPad, iPhone or iPod to measure your breathing and movements while you slumber. It can also lull you to sleep and wake you up at the best moment during your sleep cycle so that you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to face the workday.


Compiled by Heidi M. Agustin

Sources:

“Give It a Rest: Tips for Improving Sleep,” blogs.wsj.com, January 23, 2013, Lauren Weber

“Go Ahead, Hit the Snooze Button,” online.wsj.com, January 23, 2013, Lauren Weber

“Rest for the Weary: 3 Start-ups Trying to Help You Sleep,” inc.com, January 23, 2013, Samuel Wagreich

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