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How sleep affects workers' productivity and safety

While everyone needs to sleep, many people underestimate just how much sleep they need. At some point or another, most people have likely experienced problems sleeping or life events, like the birth of a child, that cause prolonged sleep disruptions. However, while scientific evidence proves otherwise, not getting sufficient amounts of sleep is widely regarded as being no big deal.

Individuals who don't obtain sufficient amounts of sleep are less able to communicate effectively and are more likely to become distracted. Additionally, sleep deprivation has been linked to a decrease in overall performance and an increase in errors in both judgment and production-oriented tasks. From a productivity standpoint, it's clear that employers should be more concerned about whether or not their employees are sleeping well enough and for long enough at night.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, to function properly, adults ages 18 to 64 need between seven to nine hours of sleep. Despite the importance of getting enough sleep, more than 60 percent of U.S. adults report that they don't get enough sleep during the work week.

Along with productively, safety is also a concern when tired workers are operating heavy machinery, working along an assembly line or working with dangerous materials. Not only are overly-tired workers more prone to work slower and make mistakes, they are also more likely to exhibit and engage in inappropriate and high-risk behaviors.

While, barring the commercial trucking industry, employers have no real way to enforce work policies related to sleeping; they can work to educate workers about the damaging effects of getting too little sleep as well as intervene in cases where a worker appears to be overly tired.

Source: EHS Today, "The Ten Dangers of Sleep Deprivation for Workers," Sandy Smith, Nov. 2015

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