How to Tackle Sleep Deprivation in Your Workplace
Sleep, Rest & Relaxation
There’s an increasingly loud conversation taking place about sleep. Far from being something that we should try to cram in between the competing demands on our time and attention, sleep is in fact the cornerstone of positive wellbeing.
‘Sleep improves every aspect of your health. Because sleep is the time when your body is repairing all of your systems, including brain function, it’s not a stretch to say that all aspects of health are improved from getting good quality sleep.’ Chris Sandel, Work Well Being Associate.
The damaging effects of too little sleep are well documented; from an increased risk of physical health conditions including high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes, to the strain on our mental health. When it comes to the workplace, clearly sleep deprived employees do not make for happy and engaged employees. According to Britain’s Healthiest Workplace survey 2017, produced by Vitality and Rand Europe, 29.6% of employees sleep less than 7 hours per night and lose an equivalent of 4.7 productive days per year.
So, it’s no surprise that last week Business in the Community and Public Health England launched a toolkit to help employers reduce the risk of sleep deprivation and boost productivity in the workplace. The toolkit aims to provide information, resources and practical actions that employers can take to maximise employee energy through effective sleep and recovery.
Causes of Sleep Deprivation
There are many reasons why people experience poor sleep, and this changes throughout our lifetime. The causes are often outside of the workplace, and can be considered as either environmental & lifestyle influences such as excessive screen-time, exposure to sunlight, diet and nutrition; or internal influences, such as financial worries, stress, relationship breakdowns or bereavement.
Promoting Better Sleep – Individual Actions
There is no magic bullet for improving sleep, and as the causes are unique to the individual, there is no one size fits all. However, there are some things we can all do to give ourselves the best chance of a good night’s sleep - here are some recommendations from Work Well Being Associate, Chris Sandel:
1. Bed & Wake Time – we need between 7-9 hours sleep and most people need more than they realise. Sleep can be broken into two halves; the first half of the night is where more physical repair takes place, while the second half is more about mental repair. Having a regular bed and wake time assists with this process.
2. Sleep in Darkness - black out blinds are best to make sure minimal light is coming in while you are trying to sleep. This can mean you get deeper sleep and aren’t affected by light stimulating you while you are trying to sleep.
3. Sleeping Temperature - to help with circadian rhythm, you want to be warmer during the day and cooler in the evening. You should be sleeping in a cooler environment than you’ve been experiencing during the day.
4. Minimise Exposure to Bright Lights in the Evening - for the hours leading up to bed dim your lights where possible or start using candles as an alternative, as quaint as this may sound.
5. Limit TV & Screens - no TV or computer just before bed. The flickering light will stimulate cortisol and suppress restorative sleep. If you must use a screen in the evening, wear specific glasses or use applications like f.lux , that blocks out the blue light.
6. Take in Enough Food - there is a lot of work going on while you are asleep and your body needs adequate energy to help this happen. Avoid caffeine after lunchtime and limit alcohol as this prevents you from falling into deeper sleep.
7. Wind Down Rituals - identify the things that help you to switch off and get into sleep mode and to get to bed at the right time. This could include things like taking a bath or shower, doing some stretching, reading a relaxing book. Find out what works for you.
8. Physical Movement – more during the day, less in the evening. Doing intense exercise is a stress on the body. This doesn’t make it inherently bad, it but this can take a time to wind down and if you are doing this in the evening it could be impacting on your quality of sleep.
Promoting Better Sleep – Employer Actions
As an employer, whilst equipping employees with the knowledge to take action to improve their sleep is invaluable, it’s crucial to also look inwards within the organisation to assess whether the demands of the job or the level of support or clarity an employee is receiving are contributing to excess stress and worry and impacting on sleep.
There are of course also some simple measures you can put in place within the office environment to support better sleep, such as encouraging breaks, ensuring exposure to natural light, promoting walking meetings, creating break-out spaces for rest and relaxation, and encouraging employees to take holidays.
For further guidance on the steps you can take, the toolkit can be accessed here.
At Work Well Being we believe that prioritising sleep, rest & relaxation is a key prerequisite for living a balanced and happy life. We have developed a number of Signature Workshops which examine the causes of poor sleep, educate staff on why sleep and rest matters, and crucially equip them with practical techniques and ideas to unwind and create time for quiet, supporting the mind and body to rest and relax.
You can find out more by contacting us here.