Thursday, September 8, 2011


One of my pet peeves has been that lack of sleep has been rewarded and celebrated in the US for decades.  It almost seems like we are in competition with each other on how little sleep we get.  Where does that perverted notion stem from?  Perhaps from our corporate or working environment, ethics, and expectations--or perhaps a left-over of our Protestant heritage?

I can still hear my church's admonitions:  "Cleanliness is next to Godliness!"  Cool.  After you clean top to bottom, you go to school, because "The Glory of God is Intelligence", then pop out babies to "give bodies to heaven's spirits", and both parents go to work because you hardly have another choice in this economy, where does providing for your family take priority?  After all, "No success can compensate for failure in the home."  (No pressure, though!)  It is no wonder why some people have trouble sleeping...

Contrary to the accolades people may received from others for sleep-deprivation, there are many studies that provide evidence that sleep-deprivation is neither  good for us, our health--nor for work productivity.

This cultural value must change is we hope to keep both our physical and mental health intact.  A person can only go so long without sleep before turning to sleep aids and stimulants to keep going and churning out work for their employers.  The costs are too great, people!  You lose your health, your sanity, and, ultimately, (and shortsightedly, because they promote this phenomenon) companies lose money, by replacing worn-out employees!  But YOU lose the most!  There is no virtue in sleep deprivation.

The following article speaks to this issue in more detail.

Insomnia Exhausts US Productivity

By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on September 2, 2011

Have trouble sleeping at night? If so, you are not alone as new research shows that insomnia is costing the average U.S. worker 11.3 days, or $2,280 in lost productivity every year. That’s $63.2 billion for the nation as a whole; 252.7 days.

“We were shocked by the enormous impact insomnia has on the average person’s life,” said lead author Ronald C. Kessler, Ph.D.

“It’s an underappreciated problem. Americans are not missing work because of insomnia. They are still going to their jobs but accomplishing less because they’re tired. In an information-based economy, it’s difficult to find a condition that has a greater effect on productivity.”

In a national survey of nearly 7,500 employees, researchers asked participants about sleep habits and work performance, among other things.

Insomnia Exhausts US Productivity Previous estimates have relied on smaller consumer panels and on medical and pharmacy claims databases focused on treated insomnia patients.

The researchers discovered 23.2 percent of employees report insomnia. Insomnia was found to be significantly lower (14.3 percent) among workers age 65 and older, and higher among working women (27.1 percent) than working men (19.7 percent).

Kessler said accurate estimates on the costs of insomnia in the workplace might justify the implementation of screening and treatment programs for employees.
Because insomnia is not considered an illness – the kind that results in lost days at work – employers tend to ignore its consequences, he said.

“Now that we know how much insomnia costs the American workplace, the question for employers is whether the price of intervention is worthwhile,” said Kessler, a psychiatric epidemiologist with the Department of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School.

“Can U.S. employers afford not to address insomnia in workplace?”
The cost of treating insomnia ranges from about $200 a year for a generic sleeping pill to up to $1,200 for behavioral therapy, according to study co-author James K. Walsh, Ph.D.

A closer review of the findings revealed that level of education appears to have some connection with insomnia:
  • A lower than average insomnia prevalence among respondents with less than a high school education (19.9 percent);
  • A lower than average insomnia prevalence among college graduates (21.5 percent);
  • Those with a high school education (25.3 percent) or some college education (26.4 percent) showed higher rates of prevalent insomnia.
Study authors believe the findings could help direct intervention and even prevention programming among populations that show a high prevalence of insomnia.

Source: American Academy of Sleep Medicine

I guess I was one of the lucky ones who never agreed with the notion that losing sleep was ever worthwhile.  I think not getting enough sleep regularly is a kind of sickness or dysfunctional life-style.  Whenever I felt sleep deprived (and not without guilt at times, mind you, because of all the social, cultural and religious conditioning), I called in sick!  That is called sickness prevention.  ;0) Looking back, I don't regret it one bit.

One thing nice about working at a community mental health center is that they recognize mental health days.  (They would be announcing themselves as hypocrites if they didn't!)  The only snag is, as with any corporation, whether profit or nonprofit, your chances of moving up the ladder rely heavily on how many sick days you take.  I have that from the horse's mouth--my supervisor's supervisor (who asked me not to quote her, as it is against company policy!  Nice, no?  What a nest of worms...).  Therefore, in practice, they prove themselves to be hypocritical anyway!

Ever have those conflicts at work?  Let's talk.  Be anonymous, if you like--feel free!

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