WAKE-UP CALL Sleep deprivation costing businesses $63.2B a year

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According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, insomnia is costing the average employee 11.3 days of work per year – a number that equates to $2,280 in lost productivity each year.

As a nation the cost of insomnia alone is close to $63.2 billion a year.

“In the last five years it’s [sleep deprivation] increased fairly significantly” in the Lehigh Valley, said Dr. William R. Pistone, who works at the St. Luke’s Sleep Disorders Center in Allentown.

Sleep deprivation is more common than one may think and can be caused by a medical disorder, poor sleep habits, or an odd schedule.

Dr. Pistone said that poor sleep habits are a big problem in the United States where individuals stay up to watch the late, late show and then have to get up for work at 6 a.m.

Kelly Schantz, director of operations with Lehigh Valley Sleep Diagnostics of Allentown, agrees.

“Poor sleep hygiene, the time you go to bed and wake up, keeping the TV on in the bedroom — they’re all key reasons for sleep deprivation,” she said.

Sleep apnea in its two main forms, obstructive and central, is a disorder that causes interrupted breathing during sleep. Other medical conditions such as restless leg syndrome and narcolepsy exact a high sleep toll on thousands of other Americans each year.

Most shift workers are well acquainted with sleep deprivation – officially named shift work sleep disorder.

Dr. Pistone says that the first shift fits in with our normal circadian rhythm. The second shift, however, is problematic though because the worker gets home and is not ready to go to bed. Since they go to bed later, they want to sleep later, but most people don’t sleep well after six or seven in the morning.

The biggest problem lies with the person that is working third shift.

“Your body is not meant to be sleeping during the day,” said Dr. Pistone.

These individuals get maybe four or five hours of sleep each day.

“Anybody working third shift is going to be sleepier than others,” adds Dr. Pistone.

Another modern complication of sleep is the 12-hour shift, which is often seen in the health care field. This also throws off the natural sleep schedule since the day is not over for these individuals when they come home, since they need to prepare family meals and catch up on housework.

The average adult needs between seven and eight hours of sleep a night.

An American Academy of Sleep Medicine sleep education blog reported on a study that showed that sleep apnea patients are 14 times more likely to have a job performance problem in the past four weeks, such as falling asleep on the job or missing a day of work.

The blog also reported that people with sleep apnea were four times more likely to have their work duties modified by taking a pay cut or missing a promotion.

According to WebMD.com, “Excessive sleepiness also contributes to a greater than twofold higher risk of sustaining an occupational injury.”

This can be a real concern for those in the manufacturing, distribution and trucking industries – and their employers.

Untreated sleep deprivation can speed up the onset for stroke and hypertension in those predisposed, and add to the difficulty of losing weight and smoking cessation.

The good news is that whether the sleep deprivation is brought on by a medical disorder, poor sleep habits, or a job requiring shift work, there is hope.

“Sleep deprivation and disorders are very treatable without turning a businesses way of operation upside down,” Schwartz said.

Dr. Pistone recommended, “Identify the patient, have them screened, and then treated appropriately. It’s more cost effective to act in a proactive fashion rather than wait for an employee to fail. To hire and train someone is more expensive than to help someone.”

Schwartz said that most health insurance plans cover the testing and treatment of these conditions and that many employers are recognizing the importance of helping their employees by including it in their company wellness program.

“There is often an out-of-pocket expense with the deductibles and co-pays, but some employers are now picking up those costs as well to get their workforce healthier,” she added.

Assisting employees with the needed help for dealing with their sleep disorder is truly a win-win situation. This saves the employer the cost of accidents on the job, increases efficiency on the job, and lowers absentee rates.

Both local sleep disorder centers advocate education on the causes and treatments for sleep deprivation. In addition to contacting these centers, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine’s website for patients at www.sleepeducation.com provides helpful information.

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