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Health experts educate businesses on effects of sleep deprivation

Adults are supposed to get seven to eight hours of sleep per night, but at least a third of U.S. adults get fewer than that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Special to The Forum

GRAND FORKS — As workers get less sleep, health experts are reaching out to employers on how a lack of Z's can impact staff.

Adults are supposed to get seven to eight hours of sleep per night, but at least a third of U.S. adults get less than that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 12 percent get less than five hours of sleep, according to the CDC's 2014 numbers.

In North Dakota, about 32 percent of adults get less than the recommended amount, the CDC reported. The group that had the most trouble sleeping was 25- to 34-year-olds—40 percent got less than seven hours of sleep.

Minnesota did slightly better, with 29 percent of adults getting less than seven hours of sleep and 35 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds doing the same.

However, some studies show sleep deprivation affects more adults, and other studies have looked at the effects of sleep on work performance.

Businesses, including in North Dakota, are starting to take notice. The Village Business Institute in Fargo has received several requests to conduct educational seminars on the importance of sleep related to the work environment, said Joyce Eisenbraun, an employee assistance program trainer for the Village.

"Employers are beginning to realize the impact that sleep deprivation has on work performance and injuries," Dr. Neil Kline of the American Sleep Association wrote in an email. "There are several studies that demonstrate that sleep-deprived employees are less productive and less creative. There is also much evidence showing the increased risk of deadly motor vehicle accidents with sleep deprivation. As a result of these findings, many employers are beginning to alter their business models in order to optimize sleep/wake for employees."

Why the change?

The rise of technology and busier schedules may play a role in why Americans are getting less sleep, Eisenbraun said.

Sleep deprivation tends to affect shift work employees when they work varying hours, but it can affect anyone, Eisenbraun said.

"Sleep deprivation can wear many hats," said Marsha Vistad, a sleep technologist with the Altru Sleep Center in Grand Forks. "It can be caused by shift work. It can be caused by just being a parent."

Reading electronic devices before bed also can disturb sleep patterns, Eisenbraun said.

"It tricks the body into thinking it is time to wake up when it is nighttime," she said.

Altru Health System reaches out to businesses to see if they want educational seminars or sleep screenings for employees, Vistad said. Altru also hosts free individual sleep screenings every third Thursday.

Those who do the screenings tend to find employees who have symptoms for obstructive sleep apnea, a sleep disorder that affects 70 million Americans, according to the Institute of Medicine.

"It tends to be one of the highest sleep disorders that causes sleep deprivation," Vistad said. "The person that has it is unaware they have it because they think they are sleeping but they are waking up many times a night."

What does sleep deprivation cost?

Experts tend to agree sleep deprivation can affect performance at the workplace, from impairing judgment, reaction time and vision to prompting aggressive behavior. Sleep deprivation costs U.S. businesses $150 billion a year due to absenteeism, workplace accidents and lost productivity, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

Going without sleep for 24 hours can pose the same dangers for drivers as driving drunk, according to the foundation. Yet some people who come into the Altru Sleep Center report getting less than an hour of sleep or going days without sleep, Vistad said.

"That is very rare," she added.

Sleep deprivation also can have long-term effects such as being more susceptible to diabetes, depression, cancer and other health concerns, according to the CDC. For example, 23 percent of North Dakotans who got less than 7 hours of sleep were diagnosed with depression, the CDC reported.

"It inhibits healing," Vistad said. "You lose your cognitive functions."

Some sleep deprivation is uncontrollable, but a lot of it is self-induced and most can be corrected by talking with physicians or changing habits, Vistad said.

Vistad suggested putting away electronic devices for a period of time before going to bed.

"There is certainly nothing wrong with turning the page of a book," she said.

April Baumgarten

April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015, and covers business and political stories. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family continues to raise registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college, she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as the Dickinson city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.

Have a story idea? Contact Baumgarten at 701-780-1248.

(701) 780-1248
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