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?