The American Academy of Sleep Medicine is tying its professional focus into its employee benefits offering, piloting an online program to help employees get more out of the time they spend sleeping.

In November, the U.S.-based Welltrinsic Sleep Network, a subsidiary of the academy, rolled out the program with the aim of helping employees track, monitor and improve their sleep. “The program has given our employees a better understanding of how they can improve their sleep, when they should be concerned about a sleep problem and what they should do to get help,” says Cecilia Bravo, director of human resources at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. “Sleep is always a hot topic in our office, but now our employees feel more empowered to optimize their sleep for better health and productivity.”

Read: Sleep a serious issue with major productivity costs for employers 

While it’s still in the pilot phase, the program will be available to U.S. employers so they can provide their staff with a complete review of their sleep and allow them to set and track goals. As well, the program can include a reward system with paid days off or reduced health insurance premiums.

Employers are fast waking up to the economics of sleep because it’s hurting their bottom line. By far, the U.S. is feeling the most impact, clocking an economic loss of US$411 billion a year, according to a study by U.K.-based research institute RAND Europe. It found Canada has the lowest economic impact, coming in at $21.4 billion, or 1.35 per cent of its GDP.

Why aren’t North Americans getting enough sleep? There are a number of factors contributing to chronic lack of sleep, including artificial light from devices that interrupt the melatonin cycle, caffeine, stress and busy schedules, noted a report by Statistics Canada in 2017. For adults aged 18 to 64, seven to nine hours per night is recommended, but a third of adults in North America don’t get the recommended amount of sleep.

Read: Why employers stand to gain by helping their employees sleep 

As well, insufficient sleep — short duration and poor quality — is associated with a number of health conditions, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, depression and reduced overall well-being, according to the Statistics Canada report. And it ties into the workplace, since without proper sleep, it can be hard to concentrate, focus and be present.

“Sleep is essential for health, well-being and safety, and well-rested employees are happier and more productive,” says Bravo. “Every employer should be promoting healthy sleep in their workplace.”

Copyright © 2019 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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