43% of Americans admit they may be too tired to function safely at work. As an employer, you can do some of the following to reduce the risk of fatigue in the workplace.

What Can Employers Do?

Look at the schedules for those employees facing the highest risk for fatigue and shake it up a little.

  • Avoid assigning permanent night-shift schedules if possible.
  • Assign regular, predictable schedules.
  • Avoid long shift lengths (no longer than 12 hours, 8-10 hours is better).
  • Provide adequate time to recover between shifts.
  • Give employees a voice in their schedules.
  • Rotate shifts forward when regularly rotating shifts.
  • Provide frequent breaks within shifts.

Let employees sleep on the job (when feasible). Allowing a short nap could give your fatigued employees the energy and focus they need to be safe and productive at work.

Education, education, education. As the saying goes, forewarned is forearmed. Make sure your employees understand the importance of getting the recommended amount of sleep. Think about doing things such as:

  • Promoting in-person and online programs focused on sleep
  • Offering sleep disorder screening programs
  • Making sleep a part of corporate wellness programs

Instill a work culture that promotes sleep health. If necessary, modify your programs and policies to help reduce employee fatigue:

  • Provide accommodations if early or late hours are required.
  • Provide safe transportation and/or nap facilities to help employees stay alert while driving to or from work.
  • Adopt policies that discourage work-related activities (like email) during off hours.

What Can Employees Do?

Keep a consistent sleep schedule.

  • Don't eat big meals close to bedtime, as this can affect your sleep quality; have dinner several hours before bed each night
  • Avoid exercise in close proximity to bedtime; regular exercise generally improves sleep, but not if you do it near bedtime

Practice habits that will help you improve the quality of your sleep.

  • Avoid chemicals that affect sleep; caffeine, nicotine and alcohol can all contribute to sleep problems.
  • Make your bedroom conducive to sleep; a quiet, dark room that is not too hot and not too cold will help you relax and get to sleep sooner.
  • If you have daytime sleepiness or your bed partner witnesses snoring or breathing pauses, you may have sleep apnea and should see a sleep specialist.

Create a Routine

Get your body used to going to sleep at a certain time

  • Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine and stick to it.
  • Avoid stressful activities, especially before bed, so you don't associate your bedroom and sleeping with anxiety.
  • Don't go to bed for sleep unless you are truly sleepy; lying in bed "trying to sleep" when you are not sleepy is counterproductive and can make it harder for you to fall asleep at other times.

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