A basic human necessity, sleep, is as important to health, well-being and productivity as a well-balanced diet and regular exercise. Whether lack of sleep is caused by shift work, by working long hours or is the result of stress at work, the impact is considerable. Sleep-deprived adults have been shown to have lowered emotional resilience, greater irritability, increased obesity, and higher risk of cardiovascular disease. Controlling for most other relevant factors, sleeping too little is associated with a 40% increased chance of earlier death.
Safety and productivity are also compromised because of the effect that lack of sleep has on mental alertness, accuracy and ability to learn. Most people know that inadequate sleep decreases alertness and increases sleepiness, irritability, and fatigue. However, many do not know that a single sleepless night can impair performance as much as a blood alcohol level of 0.08-0.1% (the legal limit in many places).
Just as working practices can be the cause of insufficient and poor quality sleep, they can often be altered to help reduce the problem. Well-managed shift work can minimize the impact of disrupted sleep patterns, and well-managed staff are less likely to lie awake all night worrying about work. Workers need to be well-informed about the importance of good sleep and what they can do as individuals to develop good sleep practices. Any workplaces activities addressing quality sleep need to be conducted by consulting with workers to ensure they respond to their needs.