Sarasota, FL (WorkersCompensation.com) – Reduced productivity may be directly correlated with insomnia, suggests a new study. Researchers studying both physical inactivity and sleeplessness among workers found that lack of sleep, in particular, was associated with presenteeism.
“This study sought to examine the prospective association between different combinations of physical activity and insomnia symptoms and reduced work performance (presenteeism) and number of days of sick leave (absenteeism) in a population-based sample of Australians,” the researchers wrote. “Both groups that reported insomnia had a 40% increased odds of presenteeism, irrespective of activity level. Only those who concurrently reported physically inactivity and insomnia symptoms had increased risk of absenteeism, with an average of one extra day of sick leave per annum.”
The findings, published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine suggest that workplace interventions focused on better sleep habits may benefit employees as well as organizations.
Both physical inactivity and insomnia may increase the risk of developing chronic diseases, as well as presenteeism and absenteeism. The researchers used data from the Household, Income and Labor Dynamics in Australia panel survey for the years 2013 and 2014. The assessment included face-to-face interviews as well as self-completed questionnaires. The final sample included 5,864 individuals for presenteeism analysis and 4,342 for absenteeism.
Presenteeism was assessed through answers to questions about whether the participants had experienced any of seven scenarios in the prior four weeks, including:
As a result of emotional problems have you experienced any of the following in the past four weeks:
- Cutting down the amount of time you spent on work or other activities
- Accomplished less than you would like
- Didn’t do work or other activities as carefully as usual
As a result of physical problems have you experienced any of the following in the past four weeks:
- Cut down the amount of time spent on work or other activities
- Accomplished less than would like
- Were limited in the kind of work I could do
- Had difficulty performing work or other activities
Absenteeism was measured as the number of self-reported sick days taken in the 12 months before the 2014 survey.
The authors looked at answers to a series of questions to determine quality – or lack of – sleep and level of physical activity. They were then grouped into four combinations, including “active without insomnia,” “active with insomnia,” “inactive without insomnia,” and “inactive with insomnia.”
“Insomnia symptoms, irrespective of physical activity level was prospectively associated with greater presenteeism at follow-up, and only the combination of physical inactivity and insomnia symptoms was prospectively associated with greater sick leave at follow-up,” the study concluded. “These findings suggest reducing insomnia symptoms should be considered a key target for interventions aiming to improve on-the-job productivity; however, for those who are inactive, increasing physical activity may still be beneficial in terms of improving insomnia symptoms. To address absenteeism, concurrently increasing physical activity levels and decreasing insomnia symptoms may reduce sick leave.
Exposure to “blue light” from various technological devices can impede quality sleep. Consuming caffeine too late in the day and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can also affect sleep, according to experts.
Stress, including that from the workplace can cause the mind to race, inhibiting sleep. Family commitments or social engagements coming up can also impact sleep.
Educating employees about the need for, and impediments to quality sleep is one way employers can help. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine suggests the following additional strategies:
- Set limits on the number of hours worked per 24 hours and per 7-day period
- Establish a minimum of 10 to 11 consecutive hours off from work per 24-hour period for workers to obtain at least 7 hours of sleep
- Promote the use of short naps during work breaks
- Establish fatigue risk management systems
- Establish a system to facilitate workers with sleep problems seeing a health care provider or an accredited sleep disorders center
- Modify environmental factors, such as lighting, to promote worker well-being and alertness
The idea of “nap rooms” for employees is catching on among some larger companies, such as Google and Zappos. Experts say short naps can help restore energy and focus. However, they caution that these naps should be no more than 20 minutes to prevent problems falling asleep in the evening.