Sleep deprivation, health risks and chronic conditions are often managed reactively due to on-the-job injury, errors and poor performance. These comorbidities are a common cause of claims (medical, workers compensation, disability, etc.) and when well-managed can control costs.
Sleep is a fundamental homeostatic biological process, which effectively means one MUST sleep in order to live. The normal human and quite frankly all animals have a circadian rhythm which in the human means we are programmed to have sleep/wake stability. This results in an awake state during daylight and sleep at night. Without adequate quantity, quality and continuity of sleep, there is impairment which includes alteration in executive cognitive function, sleepiness, fatigue, mood changes, and metabolic, endocrine, cardiovascular and immune abnormality. Some of the cognitive changes include inattention, lapses in alertness, errors of commission and omission, memory impairment, delayed reaction time, multitasking impairment, irritability and low motivation.
Lack of sleep has many causes as well as many manifestations resulting in physical and mental issues. Causes of sleep deprivation can include common sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), insomnia, restless legs syndrome (RLS), periodic limb movement disorder, central (primary) CNS sleepiness, circadian misalignment and behavioral insufficient sleep. These disorders may reduce total sleep time or impact the quality of sleep.
In the work environment sleep deprivation leads to fatigue-related accidents, absenteeism, low productivity and potential for co-morbid mental and physical disorders. Sleep deprivation/disorders and underlying health risks directly impact employee safety in many environments including but not limited to high risk or transportation-related jobs.
Identifying and addressing sleep deprivation in the workplace reduces the incidence of errors and improves overall productivity and health. According to studies there is a nearly three-fold increased risk for occupational accidents reported in shift workers compared with day workers with increased risk of accidents reported in healthcare workers, police, and commercial drivers and in shift workers on the job and during the commute home. The risk for vehicle, aviation and industrial accidents is highest at night, especially in the early morning hours.