As we approach the shortest and darkest days of the year, it’s natural to feel more sleepy than usual. But let’s admit a bigger problem here: Americans are severely sleep-deprived, no matter the time of year.
Whether we’re pulling extra hours at work or staying up all night fretting about finances, losing sleep is detrimental to our health. American workers’ problems with sleep deprivation are even estimated to cost the economy $411 billion in lost productivity.
Based on a survey of 1,077 full and part-time American workers, Glassdoor showed that a whopping 74% of respondents sleep less than eight hours on a typical work night. Eight hours may seem like a lofty ideal but according to the National Sleep Foundation, healthy adults should actually get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep if they want to be in prime shape for work.
On your average work night, 18-34 year old employees get 7.4 hours of sleep — and then it’s downhill from there as we age. For workers in the 45-64 age bracket, a typical night of sleep is only 6.5 hours.
“A person’s sleeping habits can directly impact not only their workplace performance but also their overall health and wellness,” Glassdoor community expert Sarah Stoddard tells CNBC Make It. “This survey highlights how employees aren’t getting enough rest to completely recharge and present their best selves at work.”
And American workers’ anxiety about being under-rested is hardly off-base. Studies indicate that even a single night of not getting proper sleep makes someone you feel hungrier than usual, increases the risks for accidents while driving and at work, lower your focus and heightens your vulnerability to to catching a cold, among other health effects.
When you crunch the numbers by gender, male employees report 7.1 hours of sleep on a typical work night, while female employees say they get 6.8 hours.
But for many, there is no such thing as a regular workday, Glassdoor reports.
“With technology allowing employees to work remotely and flexible work schedules on the rise, employees are empowered to step in and out of work to accommodate their personal and family lives,” writes Glassdoor chief human resources officer Carmel Galvin in a release. “But with this advancement, the lines of when work starts and ends can blur, potentially impacting the rest employees receive during the week to be at their best.”
Interestingly, these survey findings also suggest that demanding employers are not entirely to blame.
Nearly 3 in 4 workers said their managers encourage them to take time off if they need to focus on restoring their health. And 87 percent of employees felt that their employers support them in trying to balance work and personal commitments or needs.
Notwithstanding our lack of sleep, Americans also seem to struggle with taking vacation, sick days and time off, which only increases the risk for burnout. An earlier Glassdoor survey showed that even if people do manage to take a vacation, they take their work with them out of fear of falling behind or because of the perception that they shouldn’t ever be entirely disconnected, among other reasons. More than half of Americans workers also say that they would rather work while sick than use their paid time off or sick time on those days.
“There are several ways people can build better sleep habits in order be more productive at work and improve their overall wellness,” Stoddard says, “and it all comes down to designing a nighttime routine that lets you wind down.”
Here are some ways Stoddard recommends you ensure better sleep.
Unplug for the night
We’ve all hears this before, but few of us seem to follow the rule. So it bears repeating here: turn off electronics at least 30 minutes before bed. You might even consider leaving your phone in another room to charge overnight. As Stoddard explains, “This will give your brain a break from the blue light emitted from your smartphone and allow yourself to truly disconnect before falling asleep.”
This is a habit that technolgy billionaire Mark Cuban now makes use of, and he says he is less attached to his devices as a result. “Before I go to bed, I can put my phone [down] and not worry about having to pick it up in the middle of the night and [I can] just get a good night’s sleep,” Cuban once said on Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global Podcast.
Relax and let go of busy thoughts
Unplugging has the added benefit of freeing up your time to decompress. This aids your mind in the transition away from the frenetic thoughts of the day, Stoddard points out.
Former Google executive Jonathan Rosenberg claimed that despite his tech addiction, stowing his phone away during dinner and before bed allows him to genuinely relax after a busy day. “[Smartphones, tablets and laptops] are incredibly addictive in a good way,” Rosenberg says. “But it’s important to be able to turn them off periodically during the day and night.”
To help yourself wind down, “try taking a warm shower, sipping some tea, practicing light yoga or reading the book that’s been sitting on your bedside table,” Stoddard says.