Archive for the ‘Sleep in the Workplace’

The Effects of Poor Sleep on Business Executives

While a great deal of media attention has been paid to the importance of sleep for professional athletes, musicians and politicians, the role of sleep in ensuring the performance of business executives has been largely underreported until recently. Today, however, many companies are focusing on executive health and well-being with the aims of maximizing performance and key decision-making while limiting burnout. In accordance with these goals, one of the most urgent daily biological processes deserving of attention is sleep.

Attention, Memory & Performance

Sleep deprivation impairs several brain networks that control your cognitive function. Symptoms can start after 16 hours without sleep and get worse over time, impacting performance. Severe sleep deprivation results in reduced alertness, difficulty directing attention and, ultimately, in short periods of sleep during waking life. These microsleeps often go undetected but have an unpredictable impact on information gathering and processing. More importantly, they triple the risk of car accidents and foster negligence. A chronic lack of sleep also directly impairs your short-term and working memory, which often results in a failure to adapt established problem-solving strategies to new situations, even when these strategies are no longer optimal or even practical. The more extreme the sleep loss, and the longer and more tedious the task, the more likely performance decrements are to occur.

Judgment & Decision-Making

Not only does sleep deprivation damage cognitive function, there is also a psychological impact. The abilities to recognize and respond to threats, estimate the difficulty of future tasks and the evaluate the severity of consequences when making decisions are reduced. In a sleep deprived state, the brain is more likely to misinterpret subtle verbal and nonverbal cues, limiting the effectiveness of interpersonal communications. Sleep deprivation increases the perceived value of potential gains while decreasing the perceived value of potential losses, making you more likely to take risks. Morality becomes skewed; when sleep deprived, you’re less likely to recognize immoral behavior in others or to fully appreciate the moral implications of your own actions.

Physical Health

Executive well-being programs that address diet, exercise and work/life balance are a step in the right direction but won’t achieve their maximum effectiveness unless sleep health is also considered. Sleep deprivation increases your appetite via dysregulation of the two hormones that control hunger, ghrelin and leptin. This makes it difficult for you to lose weight and can contribute to obesity and diabetes. Sleep loss also leads to higher blood pressure, elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol and high cholesterol, resulting in heart disease and raising the risk of stroke. Sleep quality before and after exercise is important because researchers suspect it is during deep sleep that Growth Hormone, which stimulates muscle growth and repair, bone building and fat burning, is produced. Also, a lack of sleep leads to feelings of fatigue, sharply reducing motivation to exercise or, really, do anything else.

We’re Here to Help

Research has shown that sleep deprivation undermines executive leadership, planning, health, communication and judgement. If you’re having trouble sleeping, don’t sleep enough, or find yourself living with a constant feeling of fatigue, please consider reaching out for help by contacting the FusionHealth participant Resource Center at sleep@fusionhealth.com or 1-877-615-7257.

Sources:
BrainFacts.org
NCBI
JournalSleep.org
National Sleep Foundation
Harvard Business Review

Strategies for Shift Workers to Improve Sleep

Nearly 15 million Americans work full-time on evening shifts, night shifts, rotating shifts or other employer-arranged schedules. These irregular hours disrupt the body’s natural circadian rhythm, causing sleep deprivation that leaves shift workers the most prone to accidents in the workplace and on the road.

In the following video, Dr. Jeffrey Durmer, Chief Medical Officer at FusionHealth, discusses how the symptoms of sleep deprivation resemble alcohol intoxication:

If you experience the following, you may be sleep deprived and at greater risk for accidents:

  • Excessive sleepiness when you need to be awake, alert, and productive
  • Insomnia, or not being able to sleep when you need to sleep
  • Sleep that feels unrefreshing or insufficient
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Lack of energy
  • Irritability or depression
  • Difficulty with personal relationships

The good news is that there are things shift workers can do to improve sleep quality.

Identify Your Circadian Rhythm

Think of your circadian rhythm as your internal clock, telling you when to wake up and when to feel sleepy. Not only does it control sleeping and waking, but also important functions like lung capacity, hormone production and body temperature. The strongest sleep drive generally occurs between 2:00-4:00 AM and between 1:00-3:00 PM with some variation depending on whether you’re a morning or evening person.

Help Your Body to Adapt to the New Shift

When moving to a new shift, it can take about a week for the body to adjust to new times for sleeping, eating, and activity. This can lead to sleep deprivation, leaving you at a higher risk for accidents. In addition, during the week following a shift change, those with heart disease may be at a higher risk for a heart attack. Researchers believe that these issues are due to a disruption to circadian rhythms and sleep.

These tips can help your body deal with a new shift:

  1. Make your time change more gradual: If possible, start waking up earlier or later, every day, in the weeks before your shift changes in order to more slowly adjust to your new schedule. Moving your wake time by 10-15 minutes a day will make the transition much easier.
  2. Keep your schedule: Be as consistent as you can with eating, social, bed and exercise times relative to your new wake time. Avoid heavy workouts within four hours of bedtime as they can raise your core body temperature, making it harder to go to sleep.
  3. Have a sleep ritual: It is easier to fall asleep when you slow your body down. Routines such as dimming your lights, taking a warm bath, putting your electronic devices away and reading a book can help you relax.
  4. Accentuate your new rhythm for sleep and wake: As you adjust to a new sleep/wake rhythm, add elements that improve alertness (light, caffeine, food and exercise) at your new wake up time, and remove these elements from your sleep time. Similarly, to improve sleep quality you might add sedentary activities and sedating substances (chamomile tea, valerian root or melatonin) to the hour before your new sleep onset.

Manage Light and Dark at Bedtime

Darkness sends a signal to the body that it is time to go to sleep. Unfortunately for shift workers, they tend to be exposed to light on the trip home and in their bedroom. Light exposure at the wrong times alters the internal “sleep clock” which interferes with the quantity and quality of sleep.

You should create a bedroom that guards against unwanted light, and protects the quality of sleep until you’re ready to wake. Make sure you have window coverings heavy enough to fully block light and consider wearing an eye mask to protect against intrusive light. Avoid screen time from all light (especially blue-light) emitting devices like cell phones and computers, and dim the lights an hour before bedtime.

Optimize Sleep

Sleep affects our cognitive function. When we are sleep deprived, it impacts our ability to problem solve, learn, think and be creative. The good news is that optimizing sleep is not difficult, it just takes some trial and error.

  • Go to sleep at the same time every night (weekends included).
  • Set your alarm for the morning and see if you begin waking up naturally before the alarm.
  • If after a week you don’t wake naturally, set the alarm 15 minutes later or go to bed 15 minutes earlier.

Once you start waking naturally, you will have found your ideal sleep duration. Do your best to remain on this schedule.

Should you have any questions or like any assistance on your path to better sleep, please contact the FusionHealth Participant Resource Center at 1-877-615-7257.

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics
CDC
Kellogg School of Management

Treating Sleep Apnea in Firefighters Important in Preventing Accidents

Sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), shift work disorder and insomnia affect millions of Americans each year, and new research shows that sleep disorders are especially prevalent, and often undiagnosed, among firefighters.

The study, from researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, looked at 7,000 firefighters at 66 stations. Of the 7,000, over 37% showed positive results for sleep apnea or related disorders. Of these, over 80% were previously undiagnosed and untreated, putting both the firefighters and the people they serve at risk.

The study found that firefighters and paramedics who screened positive for a sleep disorder had more than twice as many motor vehicle accidents.

Additionally, firefighters who tested positive for one of the disorders showed more than a 150% increase in cardiovascular disease, and over a 200% increase in depression, anxiety, and diabetes compared with firefighters who did not suffer from obstructive sleep apnea or other sleep disorders.

This research confirms the importance of screening and subsequent treatment for sleep disorders, especially those who are driving vehicles in emergency fields like firefighters, healthcare workers, and public safety officials. By working to identify individuals with higher risks for occupational sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, employers and business owners can take steps toward empowering healthier, safer, and more productive employees.

FusionHealth is the leader in diagnosing and treating sleep apnea and other sleep disorders while providing sleep health solutions that deliver lasting results to employees, their families and their companies.

__

SOURCE: Brigham and Women’s Hospital, news release, Nov. 13, 2014

A segment from The Today Show on this study is shown below.

Using Leadership to Increase Employee Health and Engagement

In companies of all sizes, workplace culture is highly influenced by employee perception of leadership’s values. In the last few years, more and more employers have demonstrated their support for improving employee health by increasing their investment in workplace wellness programs. Industry research shows that 91% of employers offer wellness programs for both medical cost savings and long-term business benefits that come from healthy employees.

The Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) recently conducted a national survey of business leaders in an effort to determine the degree to which corporate leadership views employee health as related to corporate performance and productivity. Over 500 business leaders representing a variety of industries and company sizes from across the country completed the survey, providing insight into the degree to which employers feel employee health influences factors like morale, engagement, and overall corporate performance.

The results of the survey show that business leaders consider employee engagement, having the appropriate tools to perform job expectations, and—according to 20% of survey respondents—employee health as the top drivers of productivity and performance. Additionally, more than 90% said they believe health has a significant influence on workplace productivity and performance, and 41% report that health significantly influences employee engagement with their work. More research is needed, however, to examine the direct relationship between health status and work performance, as well as potential indirect associations such as workers health and levels of employee engagement.

As seen in the survey results, it is important for leadership at all levels to understand that a culture of healthy living is essential to sustained outcomes. The survey showed a disconnect between the attitudes of executive leaders and those in middle management: 97% of executive leaders reported a belief that health influences performance compared to only 85% of directors, and 87% of executive leaders confirmed their organization’s leadership was committed to improving the health of their workforce while only 71% of managers recognized this commitment.

The researchers conclude that if front-line managers and directors do not share leadership values of good health, or if the work environment does not support healthy behaviors, then companies will not realize results and long-term benefits in performance. One approach for bringing middle management on board is to align the company’s wellness program with the organization’s core business strategy. An middeling 57% of survey responders said that their companies do this well, siting that their organization’s leadership viewed health as an investment in human capital or as part of the organization’s business strategy.

Reviewing your own company’s systematic support for a healthy lifestyle culture that impacts employees at all levels is where leadership can truly start to support change from within. More than just incentive and biometric screening programs, a comprehensive plan includes developing and promoting policies, daily practices, workplace norms, and behavior-changing activities that are both accessible and appealing for employees. Specifically, this may include providing healthier options at catered meetings and events, or educating employees about the importance of sleep as the cornerstone for achieving health and wellness goals. For some companies, healthy practices may even include things like walking meetings or workplace competitions to support regular exercise, quality sleep and other healthy habits.

FusionHealth works with business leaders to provide healthy lifestyle solutions through sleep telehealth programs. As the leader in population sleep health management, FusionHealth creates measureable results that last for employees, their families, and their companies. Contact us for more information.

SOURCES:
http://hero-health.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/HPP-Business-Leader-Survey-Full-Report_FINAL.pdf

Balancing Light and Darkness for Better Sleep

It’s no secret that most people do not get enough sleep. What may be surprising though, is the effect light and darkness could be having on the sleep and wake patterns of you and your employees.

Our bodies use light and darkness to cue physiological processes in coordination with an internal 24 hour circadian rhythm system. Improper timing of light exposure and darkness can disrupt the signaling needed to activate neural systems and hormones that control basic biological functions such as energy balance, DNA repair, protein production, as well as sleep and body temperature. These disruptions can lead to chronic medical conditions including obesity, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, depression, and even cancer.

In the morning, light from the sun, in the blue­green spectrum, activates wake systems in the brain and shuts off sleep. This is due to direct activation of the master switch for circadian rhythms in a small brain region called the supra­chiasmatic nucleus, or SCN. Subsequently, multiple brain regions that drive wakefulness become active while simultaneously brain centers that promote sleep, such as the pineal gland where the hormone melatonin is produced, are inhibited.

During the day, as sunlight fades to darkness, body temperature drops, metabolism slows, and melatonin production begins. The increase in melatonin helps with the transition to sleep and as the night continues, so to does the production of melatonin in the brain.

This is how things are supposed to work, but in a world full of artificial light, many people’s circadian rhythms are disrupted.

After the sun goes down, if the brain receives artificial blue­green light—like that from tablets, mobile devices, and computers—it can be fooled into thinking it is still daytime. This lowers melatonin levels during the night, making it difficult to fall asleep. In addition, sleep deprived people also develop other hormonal imbalances such as an increase in the ratio of ghrelin:leptin, two “push­pull” hormones that regulate appetite, which drives eating behavior and ultimately weight gain and potentially diabetes.

The good news is that you can improve your sleep and wake patterns for better performance and overall health just by avoiding light at certain times and using it at others.

In the morning, try to get lots of bright natural light in order to accentuate your natural drive for mental and physical activity. As the day fades into night, power off as many light­emitting devices and if possible chose lower wavelength light sources such as red and/or yellow lights.

These have less effect on the nighttime transition. This includes a campfire, candlelight, and even an incandescent light bulb that is dimmer and redder than a new compact fluorescent lamp (CFL). Additionally, make sure you’re sleeping in complete darkness, and limit light if you have to get up in the middle of the night.

By being intentional about the type, amount, and timing of light allowed into your life, you can improve your sleep patterns and reduce your risk of disease. This means fewer health concerns, fewer sick days, and fewer delays in meeting your goals.

FusionHealth is the leader in providing technology enabled sleep health solutions for self-insured employers to deliver lasting results to their employees, their families and their companies.

*Reference:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15583226
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19255424
http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/370/1667/20140120
http://www.cdc.gov/features/dssleep/

Aiding Driver Health and Safety with New Technology

Reported by Transport Topics

FusionHealth was recently featured in a Transport Topics article, New Technology Aids Driver Health, Safety.  The article focused on the key advances in technology to combat driver fatigue and reduce risk while improving health and safety.

New technologies related to human factors have emerged that allow for more reliable, cost-effective and safer transportation.  A significant factor in professional driver safety is the fatigue of the driver.  Being able to manage sleep conditions allows driver fatigue to be minimized and thus awareness maximized.

The ideal sleep quality, quality and timing are the most important factors in reducing fatigue.  Telehealth programs, deployed via mobile medical technologies and used by a number of transportation companies, detect these variables.

Outcomes from these sleep telehealth programs show reductions in accidents by 45% per year and reduction in health care costs from 5% to 22% per year.  They have also led to increased retention of highly skilled drivers up to 98% over multiple years.

These advances in technology allow transportation companies to mitigate the risk of fatigue due to poor sleep and all of those who rely on a healthy transportation industry will benefit.

See Transport Topics for the full article.