The American worker has a vicious cycle going: Stay late at the office, bring work home, sleep less at night, fall asleep at work, stay late at the office ... you get the picture. It's a cycle experts say is costing U.S. employers tens of billions of dollars a year in lost productivity.
The National Sleep Foundation is trying to break the cycle and get us back in the practice of separating our working and home lives. In conjunction with National Sleep Awareness Week, the foundation released a survey chronicling the effects of a sleepy workforce over time.Studies show that habitually getting inadequate sleep -- less than seven or eight hours of sleep each night -- creates long-lasting changes to one's ability to think and function well during the day," said Thomas J. Balkin, PhD, co-chair of the poll task force and foundation vice chair. "These negative effects can accrue slowly over weeks, months and even years of inadequate sleep habits and cannot simply be reversed by a few nights of good sleep."A goodly number of the 1,000 workers surveyed by the foundation seem to be sliding down the slippery slope of sleep deprivation. In fact, 63% said they are very likely to just accept their sleepiness and keep working, while 32% rely on a good caffeine buzz to jack up their productivity and 54% are at least somewhat likely to sleep in on the weekends. Those surveyed said they work an average 9.5-hour day, then come home and do about 4.5 hours of additional work each week.
A lot of folks admitted to bringing the office into the bedroom: 23% said they do job-related work in the hour before going to bed at least a few nights a week. (Needless to say, about the same number of respondents reported that their intimate relationships are affected by their work/sleep habits.)
If you, like me, can cop to many of these behaviors and, also like me, aren't among the 34% of workers whose employers let them nap during their breaks, the foundation has the following commonsense tips for you: Try to have a standard relaxing bedtime routine and keep regular sleep times; exercise regularly, but finish your workout at least three hours before bedtime; avoid foods and drinks high in caffeine for at least eight hours prior to bedtime, and avoid alcohol for a few hours before bedtime; use your bedroom only for sleep and sex; remove work materials, computers and televisions from the sleep environment.
That's all good in theory, but in practice, it would involve an entire lifestyle purge for me and many of my Silicon Valley brethren. How about adapting the workplace so we spend less time there more productively and can shut down the home office? Sleep on it and get back to me.