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What Experts Say about Sleep

What Experts Say about Sleep

Who gets the most sleep? The answer may surprise you. According to Harvard Business Review, it’s senior executives.

Stories of the “sleepless elite” have perpetuated a belief that successful people sleep less, but for most of us, sleep is critical for peak performance, optimal health and happiness.

Today, forward-thinking companies are investing in sleep through behavioral change programs, digital solutions and cultural shifts.

In this Q&A blog, Dr. Daniel Barone, Dr. Wayne Burton and Maureen McCluskey, RN, share why sleep is good for business and actions employers and individuals can take to promote healthy sleep.

  1. What’s the connection between sleep and health?

Dr. Daniel Barone: Sleep is incredibly important for health. High-quality sleep promotes feeling good throughout the day, but a lack of sleep, or a lack of quality sleep, can lead to feeling groggy and miserable. Long-term, poor sleep from conditions such as obstructive sleep apnea can result in cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and a host of other potential medical problems.

  1. Beyond employee health, what’s the business case for a good night of sleep?

Dr. Wayne Burton: Research suggests that sleep disorders cost employers more than $90 billion each year in reduced productivity, workplace accidents and errors. Sleep disturbances can also significantly affect health care costs, short-term disability, absenteeism, presenteeism and potentially result in public health and safety issues. For example, inadequate sleep has been associated with workplace errors in the health care field and on-the-job motor vehicle accidents.

  1. What does healthy sleep look like for the average adult?

Dr. Daniel Barone: The average adult needs between 7-9 hours of sleep per night. That means not just spending 7-9 hours in bed but sleeping for 7-9 hours consistently per night.

  1. What’s the most common misconception about sleep?

Dr. Daniel Barone: Some people think they can get by with 6 hours per night and then "make up for it" on the weekend, but it doesn't work that way. For the overwhelming majority of people, this is simply not enough sleep, and performance errors can result (which is important in driving for example). One night of mild sleep deprivation is fine, but when it is chronic, this is an unhealthy situation.

  1. What can individuals do to sleep better?

Dr. Daniel Barone: Focus on making sleep a priority and integrate good sleep habits. Keeping the bedroom cool and dark, no electronics 30-60 minutes before bed, no napping after work, exercising in the AM, and practicing relaxation techniques like meditation can be very helpful.

  1. What can businesses do to promote healthy sleep?

Maureen McCluskey, RN: Many employees and employers remain under-educated about the importance of adequate sleep. Integrating sleep education into workplace well-being programs has shown favorable outcomes, including better quality of sleep, more hours of sleep, increased job performance and significant sleep behavior changes. Leaders can create a culture where healthy sleep becomes an important pillar of the health and productivity strategy by modeling sleep-supportive behaviors and investing in workplace sleep programs.

Daniel A. Barone, MD, is on the faculty of Weill Cornell Medical College and is an Assistant Attending Neurologist at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. He specializes in the evaluation and management of patients with all forms of sleep disorders, including sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, insomnia and narcolepsy. His new book, Let's Talk about Sleep: A Guide to Understanding and Improving Your Slumber, discusses what we know about sleep, what can go wrong with it, and what we can do to fix it.

Wayne Burton, MD, was the Corporate Medical Director for American Express from 2009 to 2017 and the Corporate Medical Director for JPMorgan Chase and its legacy banks for over 25 years. He has authored over 100 articles related to employee health and disease management.

Maureen McCluskey, RN, BSN, MA, is a Health and Wellness Disease Education Specialist. She has been featured in Corporate Wellness Magazine for leveraging innovative strategies in disease education and co-authored papers in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and the Journal of Population Health Management.