9. Sleep Deprivation Impacts Workers in the Long-Term
The repercussions of sleep deprivation have lasting effects. OSHA training for construction and general industry focuses on physical health, such as signs of acute and chronic health issues and the effects of chemicals and other hazardous exposure in the workplace. It is equally important for employers to discuss the long-term health effects of proper sleep habits and hygiene, because this is often overlooked.
Illnesses caused by fatigue can be serious. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to the following health problems:
- Worsening of diabetes and other disorders, such as epilepsy
- Heart disease
- Digestion and stomach problems
- Certain cancers
- Reproductive problems
- Sleep disorders
Immunity is another factor in environments where employees—and patients in healthcare facilities—share close quarters. Fatigue lowers immunity against viruses, increasing the likelihood that a cold or flu will spread and cause absenteeism and an unhealthy environment for workers and, potentially, patients. Employers and workers have a responsibility to educate and implement good sleep habits to ensure a healthy workforce. When workers are unhealthy, they are more likely to take days off from work, make mistakes, experience injury and lose productivity.
10. Overlooking Signs of Fatigued Workers
Currently, there are no specific regulations on extended work shifts, but OSHA does emphasize the importance of monitoring health and safety in the workplace. Since exclusive laws do not exist regarding sleep deprivation and fatigue in the workplace, the need to discuss the issue is often ignored, and occupational health and safety hazards persist.
The Signs of Sleep Deprivation
We know the consequences of sleep deprivation, but what are the signs? There is a difference between being tired and being sleep deprived. While a tired worker may yawn or show signs of fatigue, signs of sleep deprivation can be more severe—though it is not always easy to tell the difference. Employers and other workers may notice these symptoms:
- Loss of appetite
- Complaints of headaches and body pain
- Mood swings or emotional outbursts
- Weight gain
- Loss of balance or hand-eye coordination
If you or another individual is experiencing these symptoms, the employer should be notified so that appropriate changes can be made. Employers also have a responsibility to watch for symptoms of sleep deprivation in their employees.
Building Healthy Habits
There are multiple ways that workers can take control of their health and safety in the workplace and at home. According to Mattress Advisor, a leader in the sleep industry, construction workers and general industry workers can follow these helpful sleep tips:
- Stick to a schedule and go to sleep at the same time every day.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine.
- Limit naps to make sure you are tired at bedtime.
- Wind down before bed and eliminate electronic devices and noise.
- Change your mattress if it is uncomfortable.
For more severe cases, it may be beneficial to see a healthcare professional about a possible sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea. Sleep disorders can lead to long-term health conditions and affect one’s ability to work.