For most Americans, weekdays are filled with endless tasks and commitments both personal and professional. Because there are only so many hours in the day, one of the first activities that typically falls by the wayside is sleep. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30 percent of American adults get six or less hours of sleep a night.
Sadly, pressures on the job often stand in the way of shuteye. A new study published this week in the journal Sleep Health argues that employers should play an active role and ensure their workers are well rested.
For the study, researchers provided sleep hygiene education to employers over the course of three months. The companies then enforced flexible schedule policies. The 800 study participants enrolled in the study filled out questionnaires about their sleep habits over the course of a 12 months. Approximately 470 were allowed flexible work schedules.
"After a year they realized these employees were now getting eight more minutes a night of sleep, which will add up to an hour a week," Dr. Carol Ash, director of sleep medicine at New Jersey's Meridian Health, told "CBS This Morning." "It sounds small but significant, and when we look at Daylight Savings Time, where many people are transitioning at the same time and losing an hour of sleep, you see an increased risk of heart attacks. An hour of sleep matters. You need 7 to 8 hours, as per the CDC and not getting it has significant health consequences -- cardiovascular disease, diabetes, weight gain and many other things."
Ash says making sleep a priority isn't only beneficial to the health of workers, it's also likely to improve the company's bottom line.
"When your employees aren't well that's going to increase your insurance costs," she said. "When you're not getting enough sleep your productivity goes down and critical thinking, you're more likely to engage in risky behaviors. So it's significant. You have employees who are showing up but they're not really there working fore you."
With more attention paid to sleep, companies can expect to see more productivity in the workplace. A short power nap on the job may mean more work output during afternoon hours. Many employers actually have nap rooms set up to accommodate drowsy colleagues.
"It's like taking the mayonnaise out of your food every day," said Ash. "You're going to lose weight. A person can't do it alone. We all have to do it together. It takes that village."