Lack of Sleep Costing Employers Billions

Getting sleepy at work? Spend a good portion of your time before and after your lunch feeling like your head just gained an extra 20 pounds and your eye lids are on the last set of an intense workout? Well apparently you’re not the only one. In fact, lack of sleep is costing employers billions. A recent study published by the JAMA Network (formerly Archives of General Psychiatry) showed insomnia is linked to as many as 274,000 errors and accidents in the workplace each year, costing $31.1 billion total.

The study was published late in 2012 and surveyed over 10,000 working Americans as part of the America Insomnia Survey. The sample was restricted to only members who were fully insured for the 12 months prior to the interview to allow medical and pharmacy claims data to be used in their analysis.

One of the key questions asked by the team of researchers from Harvard Medical School was whether they had “a workplace accident that either caused damage or work disruption with a value of $500 or more,” and also “not counting accidents, did you ever in the past 12 months make a big mistake at work that cost your company $500 or more?”

Lack of Sleep Costing Employers Billions

Key Findings From Report:

  • 20% of participants reported having symptoms consistent with a diagnosis of insomnia
  • 4.3% of respondents had committed a serious error or had an accident over the past year as a result of insomnia
  • Insomnia mad respondents almost twice as likely to commit an error or have and accident
  • Estimates between 10% and 15% of workplace errors and accidents can be attributed to insomnia
  • Average cost of an accident or an error was over $20,000
  • Average cost of an accident or an error that was insomnia-related was over $32,000
  • Simulations estimated that insomnia was associated was associated with 7.2% of all costly workplace accidents and errors and 23.7% of all the costs of these incidents

The research isn’t conclusive, and the researchers acknowledge that it’s possible that some factors other than sleeplessness may explain some of the incidents. However, the numbers are still alarming never the less. The study still suggests a link between lack of sleep and workplace safety regardless of the total sum.

Victor Shahly, a clinical psychologist and instructor at Harvard Medical School in Boston says, “the findings could encourage workplaces to pay more attention to insomnia and screen employees for the condition.”

Although such results are sufficiently strong and consistent to rank insomnia among the most costly of all health problems from a workplace human capital perspective, employers have yet to invest widely in workplace insomnia screening and treatment programs.

-The America Insomnia Survey

This study unique in the fact that it was really the first to focus on what happens when workers go to work sleepy. Previous studies focused their research on the effect of insomnia causing employees to stay home from their jobs.

A Dangerous Road

Several factors go into why and how one falls into a pattern of insomnia. A infographic from titled “Are We Becoming a Sleepless Generation,” says 66% of Americans complain of sleep deprivation.

Studies show that even a small change in your sleep schedule can have significant impacts on your performance and your safety, including those around you.

There are lab studies that show that if you’re an eight-hour sleeper and you get six hours of sleep, that two-hour difference can impact your performance so that it equates to how your would perform if you had a 0.05 blood-alcohol level

There’s no doubt that the effects of insomnia are having a serious impact on personal health and the bank accounts of employers everywhere. What employers and employees can do to address the situation however, is still up for debate. Some argue prescription medicines are helpful, while some swear cognitive behavioral therapy is the answer. Companies like Google and Nike have even gone to the lengths of building “nap rooms” into their facilities for employees to take short naps during their day.

Regardless of the method you choose, the key is to address the issue sooner than later. If you suffer from insomnia and feel your lack of sleep is causing your performance at work to suffer then take the time to consult your physician as soon as possible to start seeking out the best remedies for you — your life could depend on it.

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