The critical need for employee sleep health

Lack of employee sleep cost corporations an estimated $63 billion

Lack of employee sleep cost corporations an estimated $63 billion

by Krista Streff

The Gist:

  • Lack of sleep has cost corporations an estimated $63 billion.

  • Sleep is considered the third pillar to health, behind diet and exercise and should be a part of the broader employee wellness programs businesses have established over the past 10 years.

  • Today’s culture has a large presence of negative influencers affecting American’s sleep.


We all do it and we all need it. Yet we don’t often talk about it – or the impact it has on our professional and personal lives. In a world where more is often perceived as better, being tired has become yet another badge of honor to mark a busy and productive life.

Reality is while we may not be able to always change our external environment, we can become more aware of what negative influencers are affecting our sleep (que long commutes, increased blue light exposure, busy schedules, caffeine….)

So what are the impacts that fatigue is having on our lives?

Fatigue causes suffering and with 115 classified sleep disorders ranging from insomnia (difficulty initiating and maintaining sleep) and sleep apnea (interruptions in breathing at night), there no shortage of people suffering. An estimated 30% of the country suffers from sleep apnea alone, which is scary considering the condition causes damage to your heart as it works overtime to circulate the existing oxygen in your system that you should be getting from breathing.

Even if you don’t have a sleep disorder, you can still be impacted by one considering they typically affect the bed partner the most. Thankfully, we have the technology today with things such as the CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) that can help people get the good nights’ rest they so desperately need – and much more. The challenge lies in expanding the education so people are more aware and informed.

Both quantity and quality are vital a restful night. Good consolidated sleep without frequent arousals, allowing you to cycle into the four different stages of sleep will give your body the rest and healing it needs. Unfortunately, just like we all have sleep in common, most of us also have the same poor habits around sleep:

  • Drinking too much caffeine – we think it’s giving us energy, but what it’s really doing is blocking the hormone that makes us feel fatigued, so we don’t feel the physical effects of fatigue. Plus, thanks to its half-life, its effects can be found in our system long after we’ve taken our last sip.

  • Spending too much time on a screen – blue light exposure is the #1 negative influencer on our sleep. Device light has a different frequency than sun light and similar to caffeine, stays in our system after we’ve finally unplugged from all things we plug in.

  • Hitting the snooze button – we may think we’re giving yourself the gift of five more minutes but we’re really robbing ourselves of the precious REM stage of sleep that helps us heal. We’d all be better off to stop the morning alarm dance instead of stopping the alarm.

If you’re doing all the right things when it comes to sleep and are still tired, a sleep study could be an important step for you to take. Fatigue is an indicator that something is wrong. And there’s no need to lose any (more) sleep worrying about what a sleep study is. Simply put, sleep centers work to mirror your home environment, providing the comforts of home so you can sleep while they monitor you to find the what’s causing you to feel so fatigued.

So what’s businesses role in all of this?

Businesses have done a great job over the past 10 years building employee wellness programs and caring for their teams. While sleep as a part of these programs has been easy to ignore, what’s not easy for businesses to ignore is the productivity issues and money it’s costing them. Lack of sleep has cost corporations an estimated $63 billion. Absenteeism, health care needs and lack of productivity are just a few of the reasons behind that staggering figure.

It’s important to realize sleep is a part of the overall employee wellness that needs to be addressed. Pause for a moment and consider…we go to the doctor for our awake hours but we don’t check up on the health for our sleeping hours. Which, by the way, make up a third of our lives. Put in that context, it’s less surprising to learn that sleep is considered the 3rd pillar for health behind diet and exercise.

Companies that have a culture of care for their employees attract and retain top talent. With leading companies like Nike and Google doing more, increased media behind the science of sleep is trending. Which shouldn’t be a surprise when you realize that by addressing key parts of employees’ lives, they are able to be more present and productive. Everybody wins. Bottom line – we all want to show up as our best selves at work and employers can play an important role in helping to make this happen. Even a small step such as bringing in educators or offering classes can make a big stride towards making a difference in your employees’ sleeping – and waking hours.

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