How does a lack of sleep affect pain, and how does that pain, in turn, affect the ability to perform work tasks? New research has an answer to that question.
The study from the Harvard Center for Work, Health and Wellbeing, finds sleep deficiency (short sleep duration, insomnia symptoms, sleep insufficiency, or all three) impacts pain and difficulty performing work tasks due to that pain among hospital care workers.
This impact may affect productivity or the ability to perform demanding work such as patient handling.
Of 1572 respondents (90% women, average age 41), 57% reported sleep deficiency, 73% had pain in the last three months, 33% experienced work interference and 18% had functional limitation.
The study was funded by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). In a recent NIOSH blog post, it’s noted that the results of this research are in agreement with other studies linking poor sleep and pain.
The importance of this study, particularly for the healthcare field, is magnified when the incidence of pain among workers in the industry is considered.
The annual incidence of back injury and pain among nurses ranges between 30% and 75%. Nursing aides suffer more days away from work for back pain than any other occupation.
What can employers do? The study has several recommendations:
- increase flexibility on shift length and timing, and
- educate workers on the important associations between sleep, musculoskeletal disorders and pain.
Previous studies show 30% of civilian employees reported they get less than six hours of sleep per night. The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults get seven to nine hours of sleep daily. Among healthcare and social assistance workers, 52% of night shift workers reported sleep deprivation. Among people who work more than 40 hours a week, 36% don’t get the recommended amount of sleep.
Has your company adjusted work schedules to help employees get enough sleep? Do you educate workers about proper sleep? Let us know in the comments box below.