Sleep disorders: Why they should be keeping employers up at night

Employers looking to enhance productivity could consider introducing a new program for workers that would encourage them to take a nap each day. The idea has caught on in the United States with organizations like Google Inc., Ben & Jerry’s and the House of Representatives all offering employees the opportunity to get a little shuteye while at work.

“A 20-minute nap before three o’clock reduces stress, improves creativity and enhances heart health,” Ron Cashin, an account executive with Desjardins Insurance in St. John’s, told participants at the 2017 Halifax Benefits Summit.

Read: Employers urged to address ‘serious public health issue’ of poor sleep

The growing interest in ensuring employees get enough rest comes amid growing evidence that lack of sleep is having an impact on their health and productivity. According to data presented at the event, sleep disorders affect 40 per cent of adults, yet only 13 per cent have consulted a health professional. “Three-quarters of Canadians sleep less than seven hours a night. As plan sponsors, we should be very concerned about this,” said Cashin.

As concern grows, solutions are emerging from companies like Haleo Preventive Health Solutions Inc., a Montreal-based company that helps organizations help their employees sleep more soundly. “After a confidential and secure screening process, those identified as being at risk of a sleeping disorder and consenting to share their screening results with Haleo are contacted,” said Bradley Smith, president and founder of Haleo.

Program participants then receive support online and over the phone, with in-person assistance available for people who may have obstructive sleep apnea, which requires a sleep test. Of the 1,800 Desjardins employees involved in a pilot project launched by the company, 35 per cent opted for a screening. Of those with a potential problem, 85 per cent agreed to be contacted. “Ultimately, 89 per cent of those that complete treatment significantly reduce or eliminate their insomnia symptoms,” said Smith.

Read: Employers ‘pay a high price’ for workers’ sleep deficiencies

Indeed, they got more than a good night’s sleep. According to findings from the study, rates of psychological distress dropped to 15.8 per cent from 31.6 per cent and productivity increased annually by $4,212 per employee.

“Sleep is not a luxury,” said Cashin. “It is a necessity. It allows our bodies to recuperate and repair. This is not an issue plan sponsors can ignore.”

Read more articles from the 2017 Halifax Benefits Summit