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The Link Between Sleep and Work-Related Injuries

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Insufficient sleep affects more than just your energy levels. If you don't get enough sleep at night -- or if you get restless, low-quality sleep at night -- you may sustain an injury while working. A new study conducted by researchers from Colorado State University found a correlation between work-related injuries and sleep, suggesting that workers who suffer from chronic sleep problems are more likely to sustain an injury on the job than their counterparts who get an adequate amount of high-quality sleep.

Researchers attribute to the increased rate of injury amount workers with sleep disorders to something called workplace cognitive failures. What does this mean exactly? Basically, researchers say that workers who don't get a sufficient amount of high-quality sleep at night have a higher risk of experiencing thought-related problems when working. Researchers specifically mention several types of cognitive failures from which workers may suffer when they don't get enough sleep, including the following:

  • Forgetting how to use a machine or equipment
  • Not knowing whether a machine or equipment has been turned off 
  • Unknowing or unintentionally pressing the button on a machine or equipment
  • Daydreaming while creating a disconnect with the worker's own surroundings.

When speaking about the findings, the study's lead researcher and author and explained that employers should take a more a proactive approach towards ensuring their employees are well rested.

Organizations, especially safety-sensitive ones like construction, should care about their employees’ sleep, because it can impact the safety of the workplace, and put workers at risk,” explained the study's lead researcher and author.

How much sleep should you get at night to lower your risk of work-related injury and illness? Most health organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recommend a minimum of seven to eight hours of sleep at night for adults.

If you rarely or never get the recommended amount of sleep at night, there are a few steps you can take to improve your nighttime routine and get more sleep. For starters, avoid consuming caffeinated foods or beverages for at least four hours before you intend to lie down. While coffee is a great pick-me-up in the morning, it has undesirable effects when consumed at night by interfering with your body's natural ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.

You can also improve your sleeping habits by going to bed at the same time each night. Whether it's the middle of the week or the weekend, try to lie down at the same time. Once you get into a routine of going to bed at the same time, your body will fall more asleep more easily at the time.

This study was published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology.

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