sleep health

Why looking after employees sleep health is good for business

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Last night I had a rare, but welcome, night of great sleep. I maxed out the full 8 hours and woke up feeling full of beans ready to kick start the day. I have probably achieved more in 4 hours this morning than I achieve in a whole day when I’m not properly rested.

The amount of sleep our nation gets has been in decline over a number of years, according to the NHS, 1 in 3 people suffer from Insomnia. There are a million reasons we’re all struggling to sleep, from technology and our inability to switch off, to the increasingly blurred lines between work and home life too.

It’s those increasingly blurred lines that have got the attention of the Government and with research by RAND Europe revealing that the cost of lost sleep to the UK is estimated at £40 billion a year, they are encouraging businesses to take more notice.

Whether or not the problem causing the lack of sleep comes from the workplace, the impact on an individuals ability to perform and the impact on the business remains the same. For employees to achieve their potential and make our businesses stronger, we need to understand that sleep is as important as good diet and exercise, and without enough of it, we simply do not do our best.  

Line managers play an important role. The impact of sleep deprivation often occurs over a long period of time, which means that employees often don’t notice they’re missing out. The first challenge is for line managers to learn to recognise the symptoms of sleep deprivation. Identified here by the Public Health England Sleep and Recovery Toolkit.

  • Decreased communication
  • Performance deterioration
  • Poor concentration/ easily distracted
  • Poor cognitive assimilation and memory
  • Poor mood/ inappropriate behaviour
  • Greater risk-taking behaviour
  • Inability to make necessary adjustments
  • Increased intake of caffeine/ energy drinks
  • Increased sickness/ sickness absence.

The next step is to take action and consider if the time is right to review the organisations’ whole approach to health and wellbeing so that it includes sleep.  The advice and support of a specialist occupational health service such as Cordell Health can help as they will monitor and assess workers health, safety and performance across the whole company. They will also be able to suggest and help implement positive changes that will result in more engaged, healthy and productive employees.  This will help those already affected and importantly put preventative measures and cultural changes in place.

Starting the conversation about lack of sleep with employees can be challenging as it is such a personal issue and can be hard to discuss. The self-assessment tools at Sleepio and NHS Choices are a great first step to opening the lines of communication and offer some good advice.

There are 8 recommendations identified by Public Health England to help employees recuperate:

  • Help employees to understand the impact of excessive screen time on their mental wellbeing, work/life balance and sleep
  • Encourage them to have screen breaks including a break from social media and news channels throughout the day.
  • Hydration aids recovery, so make drinking water available throughout the workplace.
  • Encourage exposure to natural light, sunshine helps the body recover natural rhythms disrupted by poor sleep or lack of sleep.
  • Walking meetings, outside lunches and breaks from work that involves stepping out of the workplace can all be promoted.
  • Ensure staff have a quiet space away from their desks to eat lunch and consider providing spaces for staff to relax during the working day or night.
  • Break out spaces, sofa areas and relaxation pods are used by some employers to promote rest and recovery.
  • Ensure staff take their full holiday entitlement. Time off work is not ‘nice to have’ but an essential element of work/life balance.

As well as this, there are some brilliant apps that employees can be encouraged to download that will help them get a better understanding of their sleep patterns and the triggers involved. These will not only help promote self-care but can be followed up with an open door policy in the workplace and support with signposting to where employees can get help if they need it.

  • SleepBot uses a motion tracker in a smartphone to monitor movement and can keep track of sleep cycles and record sound levels. There are detailed tables that break down your sleep history by date etc. It also has a nice little section where you can make a note of your mood or something that disturbed you (noise or a thought) in the night. 
  • The iMoodJournal tracks mood, sleep, medication and energy levels through the phone.
  • There is a sleep tracker within the clock function of the iPhone (ios10) that can monitor how you sleep as well as be set to remind you when it’s time to go to bed and gently wake you at the optimum time in the morning.
  • Fitbit can monitor sleep as well as encourage fitness. It provides easy to read graphics that show sleep cycles and restless period through the night.

Hopefully, this will help you to think about the importance of reviewing employees sleep health and wellbeing in your workplace. Have you noticed any of the warning signs of in your team? How do you think you will approach it with them?

The secret to SLEEP HEALTH: Our lack of sleep has alarm bells ringing

In this blog, we explore why sleep is so hard to come by and suggest a remedy for a mood-boosting overhaul of your healthy sleep habits!

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With workplace stress on the rise and the ever-present smartphone by the side of the bed, it’s no wonder we are getting a disrupted night’s sleep. Living in our fast-paced, non-stop, 24-hour, working-chatting-shopping-thinking world….we can’t switch off. We are tired, burning out and exhausted. The effect runs much deeper than just needing a stronger coffee on the way to work. In fact, scientists at research organisation Rand have predicted that the effect of sleep deprivation on productivity and health could be costing the British economy up to $50 billion each year.

We think we’re working harder, faster and more productively but it turns out we’re doing the exact opposite as our constant tiredness can cause a lack of motivation, low immunity and negative mood. Company profitability can be affected by the consequential hike in staff turnover, more sick days and an unproductive environment in the workplace, especially in those that require teamwork and creative thinking.

A massive 84% of respondents surveyed by Hult International Business School said they were more irritable after a bad night’s sleep and over half consequently admitted feeling more stressed, anxious and frustrated. The 20-34 age group revealed that 27% felt exhausted every day and were less likely to be able to focus and complete tasks than any other age group.

“It is common for managers and colleagues to look at a lack of focus or motivation, irritability, and bad decision making as being caused by poor training, organisational politics or the work environment. The answer could be much simpler – a lack of sleep.”

From The Wake-up Call: The importance of sleep in organisational life

Of course, not all stress comes from the workplace but three-quarters of workers surveyed by CV-Library cited workplace stress as the main cause of their disrupted sleep. That figure that is likely to rise as you climb the career ladder; more responsibility = more money = more stress = less sleep!

Why can’t we just switch off the lights, close our eyes and go to sleep?

The answer is cortisol, the ‘fight-or-flight’ hormone that gushes into our bodies with adrenaline when we need to be at the top of our game. Normally it peaks in the morning and gradually reduces throughout the day to a low enough level by bedtime for us to relax and get to sleep. In times of stress, however, this same superpower-boosting friend can quickly turn into a 24-hour foe that you can’t switch off.

The buzz stays with you all time. Stuck in a traffic jam? Rushing for a deadline at work? Late to pick up the kids? Worrying about money? The result is often a nervous feeling in our stomach, headache, lack of focus - and wishing there were more hours in the day!

Cortisol can cause a whole host of problems and chief among them is a negative effect on sleep. If you’re lucky enough to be able to nod off, the chances are you’ll wake up during the night and won’t be able to get off again. You’ll likely be tired, craving sugary foods and caffeine and probably in a bad mood. And the cycle starts again……

So, how do we look after our sleep? For starters, we need to take sleep seriously and think about the stress points in our lives. We should all be aiming for a solid 7-8 hours a night. It’s not just something that happens naturally at the end of the day; we need to prioritise it, plan it and prepare for it, to ensure we get those all-important hours in.

SLEEP HEALTH is something all managers and teams can take an active role in and with the New Year on the horizon, now is the perfect time to overhaul our attitudes to those all-important zzzzz's.

  • Schedule sleep so your body develops a good circadian rhythm (its own internal sleep clock)
  • Leave alcohol, caffeine and nicotine well alone
  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat healthily
  • Put technology away – at least 30 minutes before bed!
  • Help staff eat and live healthily maybe provide healthy fruit snacks and fresh water throughout the day
  • Evaluate how your company rewards work behaviour ie, answering emails during evenings and weekends
  • Actively encourage exercise during the working day
  • Let staff work flexible hours so individuals can work when they’re at their most productive
  • Teach staff to time-manage efficiently and go home on time
  • Harness a culture of wellness and support

We all have those moments when our head droops at our desk but do you think you’re getting enough sleep? Would be great to know what you think about sleep and how it affects your working day?