Sleep may not seem like an important factor in our health, but it is. Sleep habits and overall fatigue/restfulness can affect everything from a person’s mood, health and likelihood of getting in a car accident or workplace accident. It might not come as a surprise, however, that the pandemic and the lockdown from coronavirus has taken a toll on Americans’ sleep schedules.
Sleep deprivation, according to the National Sleep Foundation, increases the likelihood of a workplace accident by 70 percent. The effects of fatigue have often been compared to the effects of alcohol, resulting in impaired judgment and poor performance, OSHA notes.
Tired workers pose 10 major dangers in particular, OSHA explains:
- improper safety enforcement and major injury
- impaired motor skills
- poor decision making and risk taking
- poor memory and information processing
- falling sleep on the job
- the special risk for shift workers
- inability to deal with stress
- a reduction in productivity
- an impact on worker’s in the long-term
- a potential for overlooking signs of fatigued workers
The world lately has been stressful and overwhelming to say the least: we have witnessed a global pandemic, high unemployment rates, risk of getting sick, protests and conversations about social and racial injustices and much more in just a few short months.
SleepStandards conducted a study on Americans’ sleep during and post-lockdown, and results showed that this season has not been healthy for many of us. In May 2020, researchers surveyed 1,015 respondents in the U.S. between the ages of 18 and 79 years old. Fifty-five percent were female, and 45 percent were male. Of the participants, 13.4 percent were Gen Z, 51.6 percent are Millennial, 25.1 percent Gen X and 9.9 percent Baby Boomer.
Fifty-three percent of Americans spend less time for sleep after the lockdown. Sixty-seven percent of Americans believe their sleep was healthier before the beginning of lockdown. Even after lockdown technically ended (but the pandemic and health advisories continue), 68 percent of Americans feel stress or find it hard to sleep.
This stress and difficulty to sleep was categorized into these categories: hard to fall asleep, stress and anxiety, don’t have enough sleep, don’t have a constant sleep schedule, have more vivid dreams or nightmares, experience sleep disorders and none of the above.
As the study shows, Americans are not sleeping well. This can negatively affect many facts of a person’s life like physical health, mood, mental health, productivity and risk of injury on the job. However, while you cannot change much of what is going on in the world, there are some things you can do to improve your sleep.
For example, you can exercise more often/regularly, consistently go to sleep at the same time each night, listen to white noise or sleeping music, only use the bedroom for sleeping, clean your bedroom more often or use sleeping apps.
According to the study, Gen Z and Millennials tended to go to bed later than older generations. However, the survey noted that Gen Z and Millennials are more likely to take care of their sleep health than older generations. Younger generations were more likely to exercise and do other activities to improve their sleep, but most of Gen X and Baby Boomers choose to do nothing.
The past few months have really put Americans’ wellness and health to the test. While it is crucial to take care of yourself like getting fresh air, reducing screen time and focusing on mental health, do not forget about the importance of sleep and how fatigue can affect you, too.
*Thanks to our friends at Occupational Health & Safety for content in this piece.
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