Sleep deprivation makes us useless at work, study shows

Zzzzzzzz. Snooore. Snurrrfle. Zzzzzz.

What? Wait, are you here? Sorry! We were just napping. As long as you’re here, then you probably relate: it’s highly likely you’re sleepy as you read this, because we’re all sleepy at work most days.

The National Safety Council released a report based on a survey showing just how many of us are struggling when it comes to getting enough sleep for work the next morning. A whopping 43% of respondents said they fail to get at least 7 hours of shuteye daily, and 97% reported having at least one of the nine “fatigue risk factors” listed in the study to the point where lack of sleep actually threatened their lives.

The study identified three ways to spot your own sleep deprivation. First, “decreased cognitive performance,” then “microsleeps” followed by “increased safety risk.”

A staggering 97% of respondents said their grogginess took a mental toll, with lower “vigilance, attention, memory, concentration” and more. Almost half surveyed— 47%— said “nodding off” happens to them at work. Even worse, 16% said they had “at least one safety incident” because they were tired.

“These findings are a literal wake-up call: When we’re tired, we can put ourselves and others at risk…We hope Americans recognize that impairment stems not just from alcohol and drugs, but lack of restorative rest – fitness for duty starts with getting a good night’s sleep,” said Deborah A.P. Hersman, president and CEO of the National Safety Council.

How our sleep deprivation gets this bad

How do we let this happen? Because we’re working really hard. Around 81% of respondents had jobs they considered “demanding.”

Among the list of risk factors: Long shifts, long weeks, no rest breaks, working very late or very early, and not getting at least 12 hours between shifts. Demanding jobs and long commutes were also common.

Not surprisingly, the more jobs people had, the worse their sleep deprivation. Sixty-seven percent of people who said they work more than one job also said they work 50+ hours weekly, which, the study says, puts them in danger of  “sleep deprivation.” Here’s how to address sleep deprivation.

Get some exercise

Tire yourself out. The National Sleep Foundation sheds light on how this can enhance your sleep.

“Physical activity improves sleep quality and increases sleep duration. Exercise may also bolster sleep in other ways, because it reduces stress and tires you out. Early morning and afternoon exercise may also help reset the sleep wake cycle by raising body temperature slightly, then allowing it to drop and trigger sleepiness a few hours later. It can be especially helpful if you are able to exercise outdoors and let your body absorb natural sunlight during the daytime hours,” the page says.

Make your room as dark as possible

The National Sleep Foundation also suggests that you “consider low-wattage, incandescent lamps at your bedside to help you wind down in the hours before sleep” and covering up areas where you can see “artificial light” both inside and outside, and more. When you think your room is dark enough, make it even darker. And of course: no smartphones or electronics, which have a blue light that signals to your brain that it should wake up even when it’s not ready.

Take a warm shower

Lifehacker provides advice: get warm. 

“If you often have trouble falling asleep quickly, perhaps a change in your shower schedule can help. Taking a warm shower or bath at night adjusts your body temperature so you’re nice and groggy by the time you hit the sack. When you come out of a warm shower into a cooler bedroom, your body temperature will drop. That drop in temperature signals your body that it’s time to rest, slowing down essential metabolic functions including heart rate, breathing, and digestion,” the article says.

Also, check out these tips if insomnia holds you back from getting the sleep you need. And turn in early tonight— right after you read this, of course.