Poor sleep and sleep deprivation are known to adversely affect health, performance and safety. Poor sleep and difficulty falling asleep are also associated with addictions. This may be because an addiction can impact sleep but it can also be the case that someone with a sleep problem develops an addiction.
Here are several examples of how poor sleep can lead to an addiction when alcohol, specifically is being used as a sleep aid.
Sharon was a nurse educator. Severe anxiety prevented her from falling asleep so she turned to alcohol as a sleep aid. One drink helped at first and then she needed more. Eventually her sleep became quite disrupted and the effects of the alcohol became apparent to students and colleagues.
Andy was a 22 year old carpenter. He was using both alcohol and marijuana to relieve symptoms of restlessness and anxiety that prevented him from sleeping well. In this case, Andy was self-medicating the symptoms associated with Restless Legs Syndrome. Even though he was based in Canada, and was going against canada marijuana laws, he still felt it was the right thing to do – to self-medicate and help himself through troubling times.
Jerry was a shiftworker who was having problems sleeping after the night shift. He found that having a beer helped him fall asleep more easily and get a few hours of sleep. But like Sharon, he became dependent and was put on long-term leave to seek treatment for alcohol addiction.
In these examples, sleep problems associated with anxiety, a sleep disorder and shiftwork caused the individuals to turn to alcohol as a sleep aid.
Did you know that alcohol is the most commonly used sleep aid?
And the rates of alcohol use are significantly higher than any other sleep aid.
Unfortunately for the above individuals, they had the additional burden of addressing the addiction while also trying to alleviate the sleep problem that initially contributed to the addiction.
In the workplace, when one is dealing with employees with an alcohol addiction, it’s important to determine if the addiction was the result of alcohol being used as a sleep aid. And if this was the case, then the sleep problem needs to be addressed as well. This may require engaging a sleep coach who can assess and suggest strategies to resolve the sleep problems or suggest less harmful sleep aids.
To reduce the risk of employees developing addictions because they are resorting to alcohol as a sleep aid, consider implementing the following strategies:
- Provide resources to help employees address stress and anxiety.
- Encourage employees to seek diagnose and treatment for sleep disorders.
- Educate shiftworkers about appropriate self-care.
- Educate employees about sleep and sleep disorders.
Ensuring that employees are able to sleep well and get sufficient sleep is necessary not only for effective performance but also to reduce the risk of addiction to alcohol when it is used as a sleep aid.
Carolyn Schur can help reduce absenteeism, health costs and injuries that are associated with shiftwork, stress, conflict and fatigue. Get more information at www.carolynschur.com