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Sleep Deprivation Toolbox Talk

Use this toolbox talk to brief crews on the importance of sleep when it comes to working in construction and the hazards that sleep deprivation can create.

Importance of Sleep Safety Talk

Getting plenty of sleep is something that most people often overlook. They think it’s not important and that it’s okay to show up for work a little tired. Sleep is very important to your personal safety as well as the safety of your coworkers.

Most people require 7.5-8.5 hours of sleep for every 24 hour day and over half are not getting the sleep they need each day. Sleep loss can build up over several nights and can be just as harmful as sleep loss in one night. It is important to keep yourself on a schedule and try to get the same amount of sleep each night.

Sleep deprivation can cause health-related issues such as heart disease, cardiovascular issues, and your body's reaction to insulin. It can also cause issues on a construction site such as a decline in performance, slower reaction times, failure to respond to changes, and the inability to concentrate and make reasonable judgments.

How Sleep Deprivation Affects Your Body

Sleep deprivation has more of an impact on your body than most people realize, touching majority of the biological systems of the body. The long-term effects of sleep deprivation are real—it drains your mental abilities and puts your physical health at risk. Studies have shown that poor sleep can be linked to a number of health problems from weight gain to a weakened immune system. Below we will recap how lack of sleep can affect different areas of your body and health:

Central Nervous System

The central nervous system is the main information highway of your body, to keep it functioning properly sleep is necessary. Chronic insomnia can disrupt how you send and process information. When you are sleeping, your brain is remembering all the new information you learned that day. If you are sleep deprived, your brain is exhausted and it can not perform as well.

At work, you may feel fatigued and find it difficult to concentrate and learn new things. The signals your body sends can be delayed, decreasing your coordination and increasing your risks for injuries on the job site. Sleep deprivation also affects your mood and mental abilities. When you have not gotten enough sleep you tend to get aggravated and moody and even impatient. This can affect your decision making.

If you go too long without sleep you can start having hallucinations and experiencing microsleep. Both are extremely dangerous if you are driving or operating heavy machinery at work.

Immune System

While you are sleeping your immune system produces antibodies and cytokines. It uses these to fight off bacteria and viruses that are attacking your body. If you are sleep deprived you are preventing your immune system from building up these forces and you may not be able to fight off certain illnesses. Long term this can make you more susceptible to chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.

Respiratory System

The relationship between sleep and the respiratory system goes both ways. If you are sleep deprived you can be leaving yourself more vulnerable to respiratory infections like the common cold and flu. If you have lung issues, not getting enough sleep can also make this worse.

Digestive System

Most people know that eating too much and not exercising is a risk factor for becoming overweight and obese, but sleep deprivation is also a risk factor. Sleep affects the levels of two hormones (leptin and ghrelin) that control the feelings of hunger and fullness.

Leptin tells your brain that you have had enough to eat. Without enough sleep, the level of leptin reduces and ghrelin raises, making your body think it is hungry when it is not. A lack of sleep can also cause you to be too tired to exercise causing you to gain weight. Sleep deprivation also causes your body to release less insulin after you eat, which can lead to blood sugar level issues.

Cardiovascular System

When you are not getting enough sleep it can affect the process that keeps your heart and blood vessels healthy. This includes those that affect your blood sugar, blood pressure, and inflammation levels. It also plays a very important role in your body's ability to heal and repair the blood vessels in your heart. If you are not getting enough sleep you can develop cardiovascular disease and have an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

Endocrine System

Hormone production is also dependent on your sleep. For testosterone production, you need at least 3 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. Waking up throughout the night or not getting enough sleep can cause your body to not produce enough hormones.

construction worker sleeping on jobsite.

Tips for Preventing Sleep Deprivation

The best way to make sure you are not experiencing sleep deprivation is to get an adequate amount of sleep each night. The recommended amount is 7.5-8.5 hours each night for most adults. Other ways you can get back on a healthy sleep schedule include:

  • Do not drink caffeine past lunchtime or limit your intake

  • Go to bed at the same time each night

  • Wake up at the same time every morning

  • Stick to your sleep schedule even on weekends and holidays

  • Do not take daytime naps

  • Spend the hour before bed relaxing

  • Avoid heavy meals right before bed

  • Refrain from using electronic devices at bedtime including sleeping with the tv on

  • Exercise regularly

  • Reduce alcohol intake

  • Keep your room between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit

Sleep Disorders

If you are not getting the recommended amount of sleep each night, you may need to talk to your doctor. Some sleep disorders that may be affecting you can include sleep apnea, narcolepsy, restless leg syndrome, insomnia, and circadian rhythm. To diagnose these medical conditions your doctor may need to do a sleep study but they can also prescribe medications or a device that can make sure you are getting enough sleep each night.

Don't Underestimate the Importance of Sleep

Getting a good night's rest each and every night is important to your health. It can make you feel better as well as better production at work and home. If you are tired your performance at work may be slacking and could cause you to make errors that could get you or a coworker injured. Talk to your foreman if you are having trouble staying awake at work and if the problem persists you should see a doctor.

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