As a business owner, you can take every precaution under the sun to ensure a safe workplace. But if your employees are coming to work exhausted after only a few hours of sleep, your diligence may not be enough to avoid accidents and injuries.
According to a report from the National Safety Council, nearly four out of 10 employees in the U.S. suffer from sleep loss. When workers are fatigued, they are at higher risk of injury. About 13 percent of workplace injuries are directly attributable to sleep problems.
While employers can help by optimizing schedules and educating employees, ultimately the responsibility for getting enough sleep lies with the individual.
Following are some ways you can advise your employees to ensure that they are getting the rest they need and are wide awake when it comes time for work.
Check for Consistency in Sleep Duration
Do you sleep more on your days off than work days? If so, you’re not sleeping enough on work days. The recommended minimum is seven hours, but some people require more.
If you’re unsure, take the vacation test. While on vacation, allow yourself to sleep as much as you want. After several days, your sleep duration will stabilize. That should be your minimum amount of daily sleep.
Keep a Consistent Sleep Schedule
Just as important as sleep duration, a sleep schedule will help keep you on your game during work hours.
- Use light to your advantage; morning light brightens your mood and helps synchronize your internal clock
- Don’t eat big meals close to bedtime, as this can affect your sleep quality; have dinner several hours before bed
- Avoid exercise in close proximity to bedtime; regular exercise generally improves sleep, but not if you do it near bedtime
Set Yourself up for Sleep Success
To help yourself get more rest and avoid fatigue, practice habits that will help you improve the quality of your sleep.
- Avoid chemicals that affect sleep; caffeine, nicotine and alcohol can all contribute to sleep problems
- Check with your doctor about side effects before starting a medication, and follow up if you think medicine could be affecting your sleep
- Make your bedroom conducive to sleep; a quiet, dark room that is not too hot and not too cold will help you relax and get to sleep sooner
- For some people, using an electronic device such as a laptop can make it hard to fall asleep, because the particular type of light emanating from the screens of these devices is activating to the brain. If you have trouble sleeping, avoid electronics for at least one hour before bed.
- If you have daytime sleepiness or your bed partner witnesses snoring or breathing pauses, you may have sleep apnea and should see a sleep specialist.
Create a Routine
The more you can get your body used to going to sleep at a certain time, the easier it will be for you to get good sleep consistently:
- Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine and stick to it
- Avoid stressful activities, especially before bed, so you don’t associate your bedroom and sleeping with anxiety
- Don’t go to bed for sleep unless you are truly sleepy; lying in bed “trying to sleep” when you are not sleepy is counter-productive and can make it harder for you to fall asleep at other times
Healthy sleep habits can help to keep you more alert both on and off the job and can make a positive difference in your quality of life.