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The Hidden Risks of Employee Sleep Deprivation

Lack of adequate sleep is a growing problem that can have serious consequences for employee health, safety, and productivity. Recent research indicates that sleep deprivation is nearing epidemic levels in the UK workforce.

As a risk manager or business owner, it’s critical that you recognise insufficient sleep as an occupational hazard and take proactive steps to promote healthy sleep habits among employees.

The impacts of sleep deprivation are extensive, including impaired concentration, slowed reactions, poor decision-making, and increased mistakes or accidents. Tired employees are also more susceptible to illness and take longer to recover from injury or trauma.

At its worst, inadequate sleep can raise the likelihood of workplace accidents by over 170%. Across the UK economy, lost productivity due to sleep issues reportedly costs £37 billion annually.

Driving while drowsy is an obvious risk. Studies show up to 20% of road accidents may involve a fatigued driver. These crashes tend to be high-speed impacts with a 50% higher chance of fatalities or serious injury. For any employees driving as part of their jobs, it's essential to check they are well-rested.

There are several steps you can take to address sleep risks among your workforce:

  • Ask employees about their sleep as part of regular health checks. Look for signs of insomnia and sleep disorders.

  • Educate staff on sleep health and hygiene. Encourage habits like limiting evening screen time.

  • Consider screening for sleep apnea which interrupts breathing during sleep.

  • For shift workers, allow time to adjust sleep schedules and avoid frequent rotation.

  • Identify and manage workplace stressors that may interfere with sleep.

  • Be alert to presenteeism and signs of fatigue like dosing during meetings.

  • Refer chronic insomnia cases to a doctor or sleep clinic.

Adequate high-quality sleep is essential for employees' health, safety, and effectiveness. By tackling sleep issues early, you can reduce health risks and improve productivity. Promoting better sleep habits will lead to a healthier, happier workforce.


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