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Blue @ Work

What quality zzz's mean for the workplace

The link between sleep and productivity

It's no big secret that American adults aren't getting enough sleep. In fact, it's such an important piece of overall health and productivity that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends seven or more hours of sleep External Site per night for optimal well-being. But 1 in 3 Americans aren't getting the sleep they need.

The true cost of poor sleep

Poor sleep habits are associated with an increased risk of developing chronic conditions like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and more. On top of that, a Harvard research study External Site found insomnia leads to the loss of 11.3 days’ worth of productivity each calendar year for an average worker. When the study calculated cost impact, that’s equal to $2,280 per worker!

Not only do we need to get enough sleep, we need quality sleep, too. Poor sleep leaves us feeling tired even after getting enough sleep, and it can be caused by waking up frequently during the night or snoring or gasping for air. 

Snoring could be more than just a habit;  it may be a sign of sleep apnea External Site. This sleep disorder, affecting nearly 22 million Americans, can reduce or stop normal breathing and momentarily interrupts sleep. If you experience any of these signs External Site, make sure to tell your personal doctor Opens in a new window.

How to get diagnosed

If the doctor has ruled out other potential causes of disrupted sleep, like a nasal obstruction, they may recommend completing a sleep study. Overnight sleep studies measure several things (breathing rate, blood oxygen level and heart rate) and can be completed in a hospital, sleep center or at home. All settings will provide a complete evaluation of your sleep, but home-based studies let you be comfortable in your own space.

Location, location

The biggest difference between sleep-study settings is cost. A home-based sleep study runs a few hundred dollars, while a facility-based sleep study can cost into the thousands1. But home-based studies aren't a one-size-fits-all solution. A facility-based study may be the best option — and considered medically necessary — for people with certain medical conditions or if the doctor suspects a disorder other than sleep apnea.

Developing healthy habits

Sleep shouldn't be a luxury; it's a pivotal component of overall good health. “As a nation, we are not getting enough sleep,” said Wayne Giles, M.D., director of CDC’s Division of Population Health. “Lifestyle changes such as going to bed at the same time each night; rising at the same time each morning; and turning off or removing televisions, computers, mobile devices from the bedroom, can help people get the healthy sleep they need.”

Here are six tips from the CDC to get on the right track:


  1. Be consistent. Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning, including on the weekends.
  2. Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, relaxing, and at a comfortable temperature.
  3. Remove electronic devices, such as TVs, computers, and smart phones, from the bedroom.
  4. Avoid large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bedtime.
  5. Avoid tobacco/nicotine.
  6. Get some exercise. Being physically active during the day can help you fall asleep more easily at night.

For an article geared toward your employees, check out Putting your sleep to the test Opens in a new window from BlueSM magazine.

1Please note: As of April 12, 2018, your provider will have to get prior approval from Wellmark for facility-based sleep studies. Prior approval is not required for home-based sleep studies.