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Blue @ Work

Achieving the American Dream shouldn't cost your employees sleep

Ah, the American dream.

Everyone in your workplace (even you) is working toward their interpretation of success. Whether an employee is saving up for their ‘forever home’ complete with the white picket fence, wanting to travel around the world, or become the next CEO of the company, there are sacrifices to be made, sure. But, those sacrifices should never include an employee’s ability to get a great night of sleep.

"Nearly 40 percent of those who completed our Wellness Assessment last year reported not feeling rested during the day," said Amanda Dorr, Wellmark employer well-being consultant. "When we consult with employer groups, we use this data and take their unique organizational dynamics (e.g. industry, demographics, culture) into account to help workplace identify strategies to support their employees in bringing their best self to work."

However, it typically becomes the first thing sacrificed in order to accomplish everything on the proverbial to-do list. An unspoken workplace rule often invites working longer hours and devoting more energy to receive the promotion or raise.

An employee’s sleep schedule should never be a sacrifice.

There are more than 50 million U.S. adults suffering from insomnia External Site according to the American Sleep Association®. With a number like that, it’s more than likely you have employees who are struggling to get the sleep they need each night. This sleep debt can lead to health issues, loss of productivity and performance in the workplace.

As your company's HR or benefits administrator, you’re always looking for ways to keep your employees educated, productive and efficient. Well, we have a simple and free fix for you. Make sure your workplace encourages the following:

  1. Flexibility in scheduling.
  2. Trust.
  3. Appropriate work-life balance.

When an employee feels obligated to pick up the extra shift or resorts to sleeping at their desk overnight, it not only can have negative effects on the employees, but a negative impact to your business.

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The cost of sleep deprivation

$411 billion cost to the economy each year

50-70 million U.S. adults have a sleep disorder

2 million workdays are lost

An average Fortune 500 company could save $40 million a year if half of it's workforce engaged in a sleep-health program. A national transportation company with 1,000 employees loses more than $600,000 a year due to sleep-deprived employees. An employee with obstructive sleep apnea can cost an employer more than $3,000 a year in excess health costs. More than 250 workers likely have sleep disorders that increase the risk of being injured or killed on the job.

Sources: RAND study, Sleep Association, Harvard Gazzette

5 sleep myths debunked

With your employees spending the majority of their time in the workplace, it’s important to debunk the common myths your employees (and you) may have surrounding sleep.

Myth 1:

Employees don’t need more than five hours of sleep to function at work.

  • Fact: Aim for is 7–9 hours per night according to the National Sleep FoundationTM. In order for an employee to bring their ‘best self’ to work every day, meeting this nightly recommendation is crucial so employees avoid brain fog, impaired driving or misuse of machinery, or difficulty remembering things.
  • Health plan hero tip: Forty-three percent of adults say stressful thoughts keep them up at night according to a poll done by the American Psychological Association. If workplace stress happens to be a factor keeping your employees from a good night’s rest, give them the gift of helpful sleeping tips Opens in a new window and tricks from BlueSM Online.
  • Myth 2:

    Employees don’t need a full night’s rest every single night — that’s why we have weekends for catching up on sleep.

    • Fact: While it may be easy for your employees (and you) to assume that the weekends are best spent catching up on sleep, it’s completely wrong. Even though not setting an alarm on the weekends may ease up on daytime sleepiness, it can do more harm than good by throwing off the body's internal clock, which can lead to Sunday night insomnia according to
    • Health plan hero tip: Challenge your employees to be consistent with their sleep External Site. This means going to bed around the same time every night and waking up at the same time each morning — even on the weekends!

    Myth 3:

    The earlier my employees wake up each morning, the more successful (and productive) they’ll be.

    • Fact: We’ve all heard about Tim Cook’s (CEO of Apple) and Kobe Bryant’s outrageous daily wake-up calls (3:45 and 4 a.m., respectively). And it can be easy to attribute this trait to their successes. But in actuality, a person has to be naturally prone to function that early in the morning. And, that's a small population of people.
    • Health plan hero tip: Give your employees reassurance that waking up before the sun External Site comes up isn’t for everyone, and it’s definitely not a direct correlation to success. The amount of sleep employees get — and consistency of their sleep schedule — can be a determination of their success, though.

    Myth 4:

    When an employee is always tired, it always means they aren’t getting enough sleep.

    • Fact: Maybe you have a few employees within your office who are notorious for drifting off in meetings or skipping their lunch to grab nap in their car. You may be thinking these employees just need to get more sleep every night, but that’s not always the correct answer. Did you know, even if an employee is getting the recommended amount of sleep, and they’re still exhausted, there could be an underlying sleep disorder External Site? We’re talking sleep apnea, narcolepsy, or excessive daytime sleepiness.
    • Health plan hero tip: Get the lowdown on when employees should consider home-based or facility-based sleep evaluations and help employees make the most cost-effective, comfortable decision for themselves by reading “The link between quality sleep and productivity” article on Blue@Work.

    Myth 5:

    I don’t need to worry about employees' sleep and correlations to their health concerns (e.g., diabetes, obesity, hypertension and depression).

    • Fact: This should be an absolute concern of yours as the ‘health plan hero’ of your workplace. When your employees consistently miss out on the sleep they need, it can translate to a number of health issues other than the common side effects (foggy brain, irritability, etc.). Insufficient amounts of sleep are directly linked External Site to an increased risk in type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and depression according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
    • Health plan hero tip: Use resources from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to share with your employees on the importance of sleep External Site, when they may be at risk for sleep deprivation and deficiency, and strategies for getting a good night of sleep.

    Do you know the difference between a sleep-deprived and well-rested employee? Consider each of the symptoms and signs of both.

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    Sleep-deprived employee:

    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Nodding off in meetings, while driving or using heavy machinery
    • Constant hunger pangs
    • Mood changes (snappy, irritable, quiet and distant
    • Weak immune system = frequent sick days
    • Poor performance (worse than usual)

    Well-rested employee:

    • Better focus and ability to learn
    • Less likely to make mistakes
    • Improved mood and controlled emotions
    • Less desire to snack throughout the day
    • Increased productivity
    • Strong immune system = less sick days
    • Enhanced performance

    The importance of a holistic well-being approach in the workplace.

    At Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, we know your business, and we have insights and data on your employees that you may not have in-house. We can serve as an extension of your workforce and provide expertise in creating engaging solutions to meet the unique needs of your organization. Every step of the way, your Wellmark health and well-being consultant will be there as your go-to source for finding the right combination of solutions — because we understand that one-size doesn’t fill all.

    Wellmark’s employer well-being consulting services can help your workplace by improving your employees’ well-being, engagement and productivity. Contact your authorized Wellmark account representative, or email us at Send Email.