Nearly four out of 10 employees in the U.S. suffer from sleep loss, and when workers are fatigued, they're at a higher risk for injury. About 13% of work injuries are attributable to sleep problems.
While employers can help by optimizing schedules, allowing napping and educating employees, ultimately the responsibility for getting enough sleep lies with the individual. Following are some of the ways employees can reduce their risk of fatigue.
Check for Consistency in Your Sleep Duration
Do you sleep more on your days off than work days? If so, you're not sleeping enough on work days. Seven hours is the minimum recommended, but some people need more.
If you're unsure, take the vacation test. While on vacation, allow yourself to sleep as much as you want. After several days, your sleep duration will stabilize. That should be your minimum amount of daily sleep.
Keep a Consistent Sleep Schedule
Just as important as sleep duration, a sleep schedule also will help keep you on your game during work hours.
- Use light to your advantage; morning light brightens your mood and helps synchronize your internal clock
- Don't eat big meals close to bedtime, as this can affect your sleep quality; have dinner several hours before bed each night
- Avoid exercise in close proximity to bedtime; regular exercise generally improves sleep, but not if you do it near bedtime
Set Yourself up for Sleep Success
To help yourself get more rest and avoid fatigue, practice habits that will help you improve the quality of your sleep.
- Avoid chemicals that affect sleep; caffeine, nicotine and alcohol can all contribute to sleep problems
- Check with your doctor about side effects before starting a medication, and follow up if you think medicine could be affecting your sleep
- Make your bedroom conducive to sleep; a quiet, dark room that is not too hot and not too cold will help you relax and get to sleep sooner
- If you have daytime sleepiness or your bed partner witnesses snoring or breathing pauses, you may have sleep apnea and should see a sleep specialist
Create a Routine
The more you can get your body used to going to sleep at a certain time, the easier it will be for you to get good sleep consistently:
- Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine and stick to it
- Avoid stressful activities, especially before bed, so you don't associate your bedroom and sleeping with anxiety
- Don't go to bed for sleep unless you are truly sleepy; lying in bed "trying to sleep" when you are not sleepy is counterproductive and can make it harder for you to fall asleep at other times