You won’t find many working adults who are quick to say they got a good night’s rest. And yet poor sleep can easily affect our quality of life. Suboptimal sleep can have a detrimental effect on our physical and mental health, even playing a role in cognitive decline and early mortality.1 Poor sleep also costs money – approximately $411 billion a year in the U.S. alone due to lost workdays and poor on-the-job performance.2
This is compounded for health care workers because not only do they suffer from sleep issues like the rest of us, but they do so at higher rates. To top it off, any cognitive effects resulting from a poor night’s rest can affect both them and their patients. That’s why Employee Health programs have nothing to lose when they focus on the benefits of good sleep.
Here are just a few of the ways Employee Health programs can promote better sleep and rest:
Coach Employees on Healthy Sleep Habits
Those tasked with managing hospital employee health are uniquely positioned to share information about the effects of sleep deprivation among health care workers and how it can lead to a loss of productivity, as well as long-term health consequences such as hypertension and dementia.3
In addition, Employee Health programs that look at sleep and rest can:
- Encourage health care workers to identify the causes of their poor sleep
- Aid them in the understanding the value of proper sleep for both their personal and professional lives
- Help hospital workers recognize, acknowledge, and address professional stressors that interfere with sleep
- Assist employees in creating lifestyle plans to improve both sleep quality and quantity
- Coach workers on fatigue-management strategies and other self-care
- Provide resources that address clinical sleep disorders, such as insomnia
Offer Options for Napping During Shifts
The long hours of health care workers often necessitate breaks for napping, and the realities of COVID put these issues under an even brighter light. Employee Health programs can help foster an environment in which it feels safe and responsible for hospital employees to take some time to sleep at work. They can also partner with management to create a culture that values sleep and understands that, in a hospital environment, well-rested employees are in everyone’s best interests.
By focusing on sleep duration, sleep quality and the overall benefits of sleep, Employee Health departments can help nurses and clinicians understand that quality sleep helps them deliver better care, as well as reduce their own risk of injury and disease.4
Encourage Hospital Staff to Truly Take Time Off
The benefits of good, restful, and uninterrupted sleep aren’t theoretical, and while napping at work may help, fragmented sleep still isn’t ideal.5 Of course, hospital employees don’t always have the luxury of an 8 to 10-hour window to sleep unless they take time off.
Employee Health departments can play a beneficial role in helping workers truly disengage when they are not on-call by:
- Discouraging work outside of regular working hours
- Declining meetings that interfere with self-care, when possible
- Only responding to emails and voice messages during certain hours
Employee Health is uniquely placed to open a conversation among health care workers and their staff about the importance of addressing their sleep for the good of everyone. If you’re interested in improving your Employee Health toolkit, check out Net Health Employee Health.
1 National Institute on Aging, “Getting A Good Night’s Sleep,” 2021.
2 RAND Corporation, “Why Sleep Matters — The Economic Costs of Insufficient Sleep,” 2016.
3 The Penn State Cohort, “Insomnia With Objective Short Sleep Duration and Incident Hypertension,” 2012.
4 The Conversation, “Lack of Sleep Is Harming Health Care Workers – And Their Patients,” May 17, 2021.
5 Harvard Health Blog, “Insomnia: Restoring Restful Sleep,” 2009.