Are you always tired? Do you sometimes feel like work is getting in the way of your family dynamic? According to a new health research, putting more control in the hands of the employees might decrease sleep deficiency.
To no one’s surprise, experts back up the supposition that sleep deficiency leads to poor decisions due to lack of attentiveness. Also, the brain processes the incoming information a lot slower, causing us to misinterpret emotional or social situations. Orfeu Buxton, a professor from Penn State, says that sleep deprivation is one of risk factors in miscalculating negative consequences and overrating possible rewards.
In 2012, 30 per cent of the U.S. adults who were surveyed by the Centers for Disease Control reported not getting enough sleep on a regular basis. Therefore, it has been associated with higher risks of car crashes, chronic illness or premature death. Consequently, one of the main goals of the federal initiative Healthy People 2020 is to help improve sleep among the American population.
Buxton’s team set out to observe if a shifting in the workplace would improve the quantity and the quality of the employees’ sleep. The study conducted under the name of Work, Family and Health Network followed approximately 500 employees of an IT company, half of which acted out as the control, and the other half as volunteers in the study. The research included employees, as well as supervisors.
Two main changes were established as a part of the intervention. First of all, the employees were allowed to choose their own work timetable and workplace. Second of all, the supervisors were instructed to be more supportive of the employees’ personal lives. The workplace flexibility did not allow employees to cut on their work hours, but encouraged them to shift between working from home, office or anywhere else. While working the same amount of hours as the control group, all participants of the study wore a watch which checked body movements in order to monitor sleep hours.
There were three phases of the study: the first data collection, occurring at the beginning of the experiment, in order to establish a baseline. The second phase of interviews took place at the six months checkpoint, when researchers concluded on the variables they wanted to study and to change during the intervention. The last one, taking place a year after the beginning of the project, was the most important one, when Buxton and his team observed the results, focusing on the changes in the quality and quantity of the employees’ sleep.
The results showed that after 12 months, sleep quantity increased in the volunteers group by 8 minutes per night, on average, which amounted to nearly an extra hour per week of more sleep than the control group. Furthermore, their perception of sleep sufficiency also experienced a boost.
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