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Insomnia in the Workplace: Sleep Deprivation Is More Dangerous Than You Think

What do the 1979 nuclear accident at Three Mile Island and the 1986 nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl have in common, aside from being two of the biggest disasters in recent history? Investigators determined that insomnia and sleep deprivation were significant factors in both incidents.

Scary, isn't it? What's even scarier is that even if you don't work at a nuclear site, insufficient sleep still puts you at risk of making costly and dangerous mistakes at work. And April 28th being World Day for Safety and Health at Work, there's no better time to dig deeper into this important issue.

According to a 2012 study conducted by Harvard Medical School, insomnia is responsible for an estimated 274,000 workplace accidents and errors each year, totaling a staggering $31 billion in extra costs.

As the Sioux City Journal points out, there are many jobs that require precise attention to detail at all times. Train operators, pilots, electricians, factory workers and doctors are just a few examples of professions that leave no room for error.

You wouldn't want your surgeon or your pilot to be drunk on the job, right? Well, what if we told you that moderate sleep deprivation is equivalent to a blood-alcohol content of 0.05%?

When you're sleep deprived, it impairs your judgment and memory, lowers your concentration and alertness and slows down your thought processes and reaction times. It goes without saying that these are all things that impact your ability to work safely and productively. While shift workers are especially prone to sleep-related problems, insomnia and other sleep disorders can affect anyone.

Fortunately, there are simple actions you can take to improve your sleep hygiene and ensure that you don't pose a risk to yourself or others when you're at work:

  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and large meals close to bedtime
  • Establish a bedtime routine, so you go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning
  • Avoid napping during the day
  • Create a relaxing sleep environment

Most importantly, if you exhibit the symptoms of insomnia, consult your doctor to learn about treatments that could work for you.