Despite the funding, Kessler says the findings should not be interpreted as meaning that more people should be taking sleep drugs.
"Worker screening programs and programs to teach workers good sleep hygiene may be very effective and could actually save employers money," he tells WebMD. "These programs might help people feel a lot better and get more done on the job."
Donna Arand, PhD, a spokeswoman for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, says the study highlights a problem that is well recognized by sleep specialists.
Arand directs the sleep disorders center at Kettering Hospital in Dayton, Ohio.
"What struck me most about the study was the fact that workers really weren't calling in sick," she says. "People with chronic insomnia are going to work but they aren't functioning at their maximum. We all experience this from time to time, but for people with insomnia it could be happening every day."
Good Sleep Habits
Arand says people with and without sleep problems can benefit by learning and practicing good sleep habits, or sleep hygiene.
"One of the most important things is to try to get up at the same time every day and go to bed at the same time every night, even on the weekends," she says. "Routine is the key."
Among her other suggestions:
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol in the hours before bed. Even though alcohol acts as a system depressant and can help people fall asleep, it tends to have the opposite effect three or four hours later when the alcohol leaves the system.
- Create a quiet and relaxing bedroom environment and reserve the bedroom for sleep and sex.
- The bedroom should not be too hot, too cold, or too bright.
- Establish a relaxing bedroom routine and avoid emotionally stimulating conversations or activities before bedtime.
"You wouldn't want to do your taxes immediately before going to bed," she says.