Sleep deprived employees are bad news for Australian business. With sleep deprivation defined as less than six hours sleep per night, a study by CQ University assessed productivity loss of more than 13,000 people based on fatigue from lack of sleep.
Alarmingly, 70 per cent of those assessed said their productivity was effected by tiredness and 38 per cent admitted to falling asleep while at work or in a meeting. The effect of fatigue and workplace injury has also been extensively studied and is now a highly regulated part of the OHS Act. This is especially prevalent in the transport and manufacturing industries where the consequences of human error are high.
Illness, medication, work or stress and personal choice can all lead to sleep deprivation. The 2012 Australian Unity Wellbeing Index surveyed 2,000 Australians, reporting that people who sleep less than six hours per night report lower wellbeing levels than those who slept for seven to nine hours. Interestingly, the survey also showed that slumbering longer than 10 hours per night caused another drop in wellbeing.
Robert Cummins, head of Deakin University’s Australian Centre on Quality of Life Sleep says, “Those who sleep six hours or less a night report significantly lower levels of satisfaction with their health and safety, which are linked to higher anxiety.”
Poor sleep leads to an increase in the secretion of the ‘stress hormone’ cortisol, along with increases in the glucose regulating hormone insulin. Important in the process of fat storage, higher levels of insulin are directly associated with increased risk for weight gain, cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.
According to WorkHealth check data, 67 per cent of Victorian workers are at risk of Type 2 diabetes. Managing sleep patterns just like maintaining physical activity levels and a nutritious diet becomes part of the healthy lifestyle puzzle and chronic disease prevention. Healthy, well-rested employees are more productive, less likely to be injured and take fewer sick days. Workplaces that actively encourage work life balance can help employees overcome sleep deprivation.
More information on WorkHealth can be found at workhealth.vic.gov.au