Accidents and unintentional injuries are among the leading causes of death in the United States. Being awake and alert is one key factor to avoid such unfortunate incidents. Unfortunately, 50-70 million adults in the US have a sleep disorder, with insomnia as the most common. Thirty percent reported having short-term insomnia, while 10% had the chronic kind.
Insomnia is the perception or complaint of poor-quality or insufficient sleep, which is due to a number of factors such as difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep, waking up too early in the morning, and having non-restorative sleep. Insomnia puts people at higher risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, clinical depression, obesity, and severe headaches, among other physical and psychological problems. People with insomnia suffer from daytime tiredness, difficulty paying attention, and lack of memory and focus, which make them prone to accidents and injuries.
Drowsy driving causes 1,550 fatalities and 40,000 nonfatal injuries in the United States every year. Many accidents reported in national media had some relation to sleep deprivation. Studies conducted by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine suggest that people who suffer from insomnia are more likely to die from a fatal injury than people with no insomnia symptoms. Among the insomnia symptoms, difficulty initiating sleep had the strongest correlation with fatal injuries.
Similarly, insomnia causes problems in the workplace. Sleepiness and tiredness can affect your effectiveness at work, and unfortunately, it can also put you and others in danger. Insomnia appears to decrease workers’ safety behaviors, resulting in increased workplace injuries. In 2010, a Boeing 737 crashed in Southern India, killing 158 people. The pilot was reported to be sleep-deprived. Highly fatigued workers are 70 percent more likely to get involved in workplace accidents than employees with low fatigue levels. After surveying 10,000 people in the US, the researchers at Harvard Medical School found that insomnia was responsible for 274,000 workplace accidents and errors every year, resulting in $31 billion in extra costs.
In treating insomnia, experts consider cognitive behavioral therapy as promising and inexpensive. About 60 to 70 percent of individuals with insomnia benefit from four to five hours of this kind of therapy. Employers can also consider improving work schedules and find ways to reduce work-related stress to aid in insomnia prevention among workers.
Among those who are prone to develop insomnia are night shift workers. Humans’ natural sleep pattern is tied to the sun, which means that sleeping during daytime disrupts a person’s body clock, potentially causing sleep disorders. Here are a few practices that companies can adopt in supporting their employees who work odd hours:
- Consider allowing long or frequent breaks, and even flexible time and telecommuting.
- Designate areas where employees can take naps.
- Provide health and wellness programs that are available during the night.
- Avoid scheduling double shifts and overtime as much as possible.
- Encourage regular physical exams.
- Train supervisors on how to identify workers who are chronically sleep-deprived and tired, as well as when and how to intervene.
- Install optimal lighting in work areas for night-shift employees.
Have you suffered from injuries and accidents due to insomnia? Contact us at Hogan Injury for expert legal advice.
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