One session at the AIHce focused on the increasingly popular topic of fatigue management. It’s a product of the 24/7 economy. It’s estimated today 40-60 percent of workers in North America find themselves in non-traditional shiftwork, and the traditional 9 to 5 worker is now in the minority. According to studies, about 30 percent of U.S. workers average less than six hours sleep per night. In transportation (trucking, etc.) the number is 70 percent of employees; in healthcare it’s 52 percent.

Almost four in ten workers in the U.S. report having low energy, feeling fatigued, and not getting enough sleep in the past two weeks.

Why is sleep deprivation a growing problem? For one thing, most people don’t know about the ill effects that can come with a lack of sleep – increased weight, chronic diseases and mental health disorders. Many millions are unaware that they suffer from undiagnosed sleep disorders such as sleep apnea. And many Americans are working longer hours, overtime, weekends, and two jobs to maintain economic stability.

Researchers say sleep is as important as food and water for life and health. Average adults need 7 – 9 hours of sleep each night. A minority can get by with less than six hours of sleep, and others need more than nine hours of shut-eye. Researchers believe these exceptional cases probably involve inherited traits.

What’s the solution? Employers should develop work cultures that respect the need for sleep. This includes policies limiting overtime, minimizing consecutive nights of shiftwork per employee, and protocols for assisting employees noticeably suffering from fatigue.

Employees of course have a part to play, too. Regular exercise helps sleep patterns. Be knowledgeable about medications with side effects that can include loss of sleep. And create good sleep environments – a dark, quiet, cool and comfortable place to lay your head down.