Training facilitators often take it upon themselves to be lively during their sessions. We want participants to become engaged in the learning process, and we don’t want a reputation for “putting people to sleep.” However, participants may still nod off regardless of our theatrics or stage presence; they may be suffering from a sleep disorder.
Deborah is in the middle of sharing an attention-grabbing story that brings to life a critical point of her training. Deborah’s word choice is perfect. Prior to the session, she timed her movements around the room. She practiced her tone of voice and her rhythm so that she did not sound monotonous.
Just when Deborah thinks she has the class’s full attention, everyone hears loud snoring. Deborah is as startled as everyone else and stares at the back of the room. She loses her train of thought.
It’s Callie. She fell asleep. It happens all the time, someone tells Deborah, and Callie’s colleagues are used to it. This is Deborah’s first time with this group, so she decides to pause for a quick break so she can figure out what to do.
Callie is still sleeping. Deborah touches her arm lightly to wake her. Callie apologizes and goes to get some coffee.
Deborah starts chatting with Eric, who reassures her that her delivery is excellent and that the group is pleased with the session so far. He also encourages Deborah not to take Callie’s behavior personally.
Deborah asks someone else about what is going on; no one cannot say much because Callie doesn’t like to talk about it. All they know is that she occasionally complains about not sleeping well and blames it on the neighbor’s dog. When this happens, Callie is sleepy throughout the entire next day. She somehow manages to get through her daily work, because someone always covers for her. Jeffrey adds that he heard that the neighbor’s dog seems to be barking more lately.
Something does not make sense to Deborah. How can everyone take Callie’s snoring so lightly?
The break ends. Callie returns and still seems sleepy.
What would you do?
Having problems falling asleep is not normal; neither is falling asleep frequently during the day. Insufficient or inadequate sleep affects our capacity to think, analyze, and respond. We perceive the world moving in slow motion. Our speech may become garbled, as if we are intoxicated or, worse, having a cardiovascular event such as a stroke. We can become cranky, anxious, depressed, withdrawn, or listless. Just like Callie, we begin to find excuses for our sleepiness and avoid interacting with others, because we are ashamed of they may think about us. And we do not do anything about it.
From what Deborah knows so far, Callie could be suffering from an untreated sleep disorder such as the following.
Deborah continues her session after the break. Callie does not seem interested in the group activities. She gets by with the minimum effort, particularly when she notices Deborah observing her.
Deborah catches Callie dozing off a couple of times again before the session ends. Something is definitely not right.
What would you do?
Aside from the awkwardness of someone snoring throughout a session, it’s important to realize that same person may be more prone to sleepiness and even fall asleep during the workday or, worse, have an accident. In Callie’s case, we already know that someone covers for her and that her situation seems to be worsening according to the more frequent reports of the dogs barking.
Sleep disorders have an impact on the work of employees in terms of:
Further, sleep disorders represent an average annual cost of $2,280 per employee for businesses. Thus, business results could be at stake if these disorders are not identified and treated properly. As a business partner, learning and development has a role to play in risk management.
If you have someone in your session who shares with you having a sleep disorder, consider the following.
Huffington, A. (2016). The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life One Night at a Time. Harmony Books.
Sleep statistics, American Sleep Association.
**originally published in www.td.org/newsletters/atd-links