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You Can’t Overestimate the Importance of Sleep

From USA Today Monday, March 3, 2008, Stephanie Armour:

Lack of sleep catches up with today’s workforce

U.S. workers are silently suffering from a dramatic lack of sleep, costing companies billions of dollars in lost productivity, says a study out Monday.

Nearly three in 10 workers have become very sleepy, or even fallen asleep, at work in the past month, according to a first-ever study on sleep and the workplace by the non-profit National Sleep Foundation. The late-2007 survey was based on a random sample of 1,000 workers.

“It’s a very expensive issue for employers, and it can be fatal, too,” says Nilesh Dave, medical director of the Sleep and Breathing Disorders Center at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. “The 24/7 global economy means work is now around the clock.”

About 70 million Americans have a problem sleeping, according to the NSF. Some employers, such as Union Pacific (UNP) railroad, are so concerned that they’re now allowing workers to nap on the job. Employees also say it’s a significant issue, causing them to drive drowsy or even fall asleep at their desks.

Ursula Forhan, 53, of Chicago, used to fall asleep at her desk. She was treated for sleep apnea and says she has no problems today.

“I would take a nap on the floor of my office, and my boss was so tolerant he would step over me,” says Forhan, a paralegal in Chicago. She used to drive for work and had to roll down the windows to stay awake.

Among the survey’s findings:

Dangers on the road. Thirty-six percent of respondents say they have nodded off or fallen asleep while driving, including 26% who say they drive drowsy during the workday.

Work performance. Twelve percent of respondents have arrived late to work in the past month because of sleepiness. Other problems cited: impatience with others, difficulty concentrating on job tasks and lower productivity.

•Work hours. Employees with more than one job report the highest rate of dissatisfaction with sleep: 43% say they get a good night’s sleep only a few nights per month or less. Part-time workers report the highest rate of sleep satisfaction.

Several factors are driving the trend toward sleepier employees. Employees are putting in longer hours, in part due to increased pressure from employers to ramp up productivity. The study found that one-fourth of respondents have a workday that lasts between eight and nine hours, and another fourth say they work up to 10 hours a day.

Technology, which is supposed to enhance productivity, has also required employees to be available. “You’re not disconnecting except when you hit the pillow,” says Mark Rosekind, a consultant who worked on the survey.

Workers who have:
Nodded off or fallen asleep while driving: 36%
Fallen asleep or become very sleepy at work: 29%
Been late to work because of sleepiness: 12%
Source: National Sleep Foundation
2008 Sleep in America Poll
telephone survey of 1,000 respondents
Sept. 25-Nov. 19.
Margin of error +/-3.1 percentage points


I saw this article today and thought it was applicable to everyone: the workforce, parents, kids. How can we be at our best without a good night of sleep to recharge from a long day? The answer is simple: I don’t think anyone can function optimally without sleeping optimally.

Ask yourself these questions:

How long does it take you to fall asleep?

Can you wake up easily when you need to in the morning?

Are you alert and awake during the day?

Do you frequently need to nap during the day?

Answer these questions honestly and then evaluate if you need to take the quality of your sleep more seriously to reach your goals.

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4 Responses to “You Can’t Overestimate the Importance of Sleep”

  1. bmeiers said:

    Up until three and a half years ago, the only way I was able to get restful sleep was with the aid of a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine. Suffering from Obstructive Sleep Apnea for years, the CPAP gave me my first quality sleep in over a decade.

    My apnea was corrected after I lost 150 lbs. The poor sleep and the machine are both things of the past.

    The one thing that will stay with me, though, is the feeling of complete restoration I felt once I was able to get good sleep.

    Sleep=good. Good sleep=great.

  2. Roman K said:

    Hi Bill,

    I really like the blog. As athletes we learn so much about taking care of our bodies and I think its great that you are sharing your years of experience with everybody. Given how busy and stressful most peoples’ lives are I think its so important for people to take care of their bodies and minds.

    Roman K

  3. admin said:

    wow b meiers, awesome job getting lean. Great to hear that it has improved the quality of your sleep! Healthy body composition can definitely help encourage healthy sleep habits so I hope your information helps some people here.

    Roman K, thank you for the comment. Awesome to hear from you as an athlete!

  4. Matt said:

    Is there a way to contact Bill for a movie role? I am trying to find his agent or manager info. Thanks.

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