Sleep and Productivity in the Construction Industry
Many Americans believe that achieving success in the workplace automatically equates to having to work longer hours. Whether business is done at the office, out in the field or at home, personal time and sleep are often sacrificed in favor of more productivity—this is especially true for business owners and contractors who are striving for growth.
However, many workers may not realize the real-life dangers associated with sleep loss. Even just one night of poor sleep can negatively impact cognitive abilities, shorten attention spans, and make it difficult to commit information to memory—all of which can hinder productivity.
Unfortunately, improving sleep is not always an easy task. Work schedules and busy lives dictate the quality of sleep. To better understand the connection between work schedules and sleeping habits, a recent survey examines how professions impact sleep, and, in turn, mental and physical health.
Of the various groups of workers that participated in the survey, construction workers, contractors and landscapers were the most likely to report getting a full seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Here’s an in-depth look at why workers in the construction industry are some of the most well-rested, and what this reveals about their quality of sleep.
They’re More Likely to Maintain a Consistent Sleep-Wake Cycle
Contractors typically maintain a regular sleep schedule that is synced to their natural circadian rhythm. This rhythm determines the times of day we are most likely to feel sleepy versus awake, and is linked to the rising and setting of the sun. During the day, when the body is exposed to more sunlight, melatonin (the sleep hormone) slows and the mind remains alert and active. As light exposure decreases, melatonin increases and the mind prepares for rest.
Workers in the construction industry usually work daylight hours, meaning they’re more likely to maintain a sleep schedule consistent with sunrise and sunset—making it easier for them to fall asleep and wake up at the same time every day. Over time, a regular sleep schedule can also balance other hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline (the stress hormones). When this happens, workers are able to control their emotions and respond to difficult situations in a calm and healthy way.
A sleep-wake schedule that is not in tune with this rhythm can cause a hormonal imbalance that makes it difficult to fall asleep and experience deep sleep. This is likely why first responders and medical workers were the groups most likely to report getting less than seven hours of sleep on a regular basis. These workers frequently work odd hours that can make their sleep schedules erratic—forcing them to rest during the day and work at night. Even when these workers are able to get a full night’s sleep, they may not feel completely rested because their sleep-wake cycle fluctuates frequently and they struggle to get into a routine.
They Reap the Benefits of Natural Sunlight
When people are exposed to natural light first thing in the morning, it increases cortisol production, which improves alertness and mental focus. Contractors can’t always control the amount of outdoor work they will have. However, the fact that construction and agricultural workers are getting better sleep than suggests that sunlight exposure also helps them maintain a consistent sleep schedule.
Medical experts claim that maintaining moderate sunlight exposure throughout the day can increase serotonin levels and improve mental clarity and focus. More sunlight also means that the shift to darkness in the evening will have a strong effect on the body—naturally increasing melatonin production and promoting sleep.
They Stay Active and Sleep Deeper
Another interesting thing this study reveals is the link between physical activity and a better quality of sleep. Workers in physically demanding fields such as construction, agriculture and groundskeeping all reported regularly getting at least seven hours of sleep each night. This statistic is perhaps not surprising considering the positive effects of exercise.
Not only is physical activity vital for maintaining a healthy weight, blood sugar level, and mood, studies show that it can also make falling asleep easier and promote deeper, more restorative rest. This is due to a slight variation in the core body temperature when people workout. Exercising in the morning or afternoon increases body temperature—keeping the mind focused and alert. The rise in core body temperature also means that it naturally lowers much quicker in the evening, causing workers to feel more prepared for sleep.
During deep sleep (stage three and REM), the mind and body carry out specific functions that keep us healthy and prepared for the workday. Slow delta waves clean the brain, information is moved to long-term memory and human growth hormones (HGH) repair cell tissue. Since exercise increases core body temperature, physically active workers are able to drop into deep sleep faster—allowing them to experience more time in these vital sleep stages. In turn, these workers are more likely to feel focused and productive throughout the workday.
Sleep Is Important No Matter Your Profession
Whether you’re a leader in the construction industry or part of a team, adequate sleep is essential for preparedness and safety. Contractors may not always be able to choose their work hours. However, based on the results from the survey mentioned above, it seems that workers in this industry are more equipped for quality sleep than most. With a schedule that is synced with night and day, more physical activity, and more sunlight exposure, contractors seem to be getting the sleep they need to feel good and perform at their best.