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Are sleep disorders affecting your workforce?

On a typical Monday morning, it's not uncommon to see certain employees yawning a bit more than usual or taking a few extra trips to the coffeemaker. As an employer, you may not think much of this phenomenon, attributing it to nothing more than employees simply switching gears from the relaxation of the weekend to the commotion of the workweek.

However, what if this happens on a regular basis, meaning you have employees who are clearly struggling to stay awake and perform their job to the best of their abilities?

According to the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, this may be the sign of a serious sleep disorder, something that can have a dramatic impact on both productivity and workplace safety.

Consider the following statistics on sleep disorders from the ACOEM:

  • Insomnia, by far one of the more common types of sleep disorders, has been shown to affect roughly 23 percent of U.S. workers; For employers, this translates into almost $63.2 billion a year in medical expenses/lost productivity and 367 million lost work days per year.
  • Obstructive sleep apnea, a condition afflicting over 40 million Americans, has been linked to 38,000 deaths per year due to cardiovascular issues; For employers, the disability and lost productivity costs associated with untreated OSA is believed to cost well over $80 billion per year.

Medical experts indicate that the causes of sleep disorders include everything from obesity, depression and existing medical conditions to work-related stress, anxiety or changes in work schedule.

What then can employers do to combat sleep disorders, and the lost productivity and elevated work injury risks they present?

While medication and behavioral therapy have been linked to good outcomes for patients with sleep disorders, medical experts indicate that employers should try to focus on prevention.

"Comprehensive worksite wellness initiatives should include a sleep disorder management program that consists of screening, diagnosis, treatment, and compliance components," said Dr. Ron Loeppke, president of the ACOEM. "As with most other chronic conditions, wellness programs can help prevent or manage sleep disorders by leveraging the power of prevention - the only sustainable solution to our society's health crisis."

Stay tuned for further discussion on work injury prevention or developments in the area of workers' compensation defense law ...

Source: EHS Today, "Sleep disorders spell safety, productivity concerns at work," Laura Walter, May 29, 2013

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