According to Britain’s healthiest workplace survey 2018, one in three of your employees aren’t getting enough sleep to function properly at work. And the problem is getting worse.
Sleep is not only important for your health and wellbeing, it is also increasingly recognised as an important factor in the workplace. As L&D professionals, have you ever considered how a lack of sleep is threatening to undermine all that you do protecting and developing your company’s biggest asset – its people?
“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)
Here are some of the issues at stake:
Employees who sleep well are generally happier, less stressed and have better levels of focus than employees who are tired or heavily sleep deprived. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society reported that people experiencing less than seven hours of sleep a night are more likely to suffer from health problems such as diabetes, obesity and depression. The knock-on effects in the workplace are absenteeism and presenteesim, with studies showing workers on less than six hours sleep a night losing around six more working days than those experiencing between seven to nine hours a night.
Sleep loss causes a significant reduction of cognitive function such as attentiveness, slower response times and a weaker ability to make proactive decisions. The consequences of this are so hazardous they can prove to be deadly – the Chernobyl nuclear reactor meltdown, the Exxon Valdez oil spill are just two disasters attributed to worker fatigue. Various studies have revealed that individuals who have gone for long periods without sleeping develop the same impaired hand-eye coordination as if they were under the influence of alcohol.
People suffering from sleep deprivation may forget key details or tune out during a conversation when communicating. All of this makes communication difficult between team members further affecting productivity and efficiency in the workplace. Not only do sleep-deprived individuals experience poorer levels of communication, their mood can also be affected, making them irritable, moody or distant. Studies have linked sleep deprivation to worsening mood and feelings of depression, anger or anxiety.
So how can L&D professionals help employees sleep better?
Improving sleep levels is said to be one of the biggest health-related ambitions for one in four UK adults, so L&D professionals can play an important role in offering help and support.
One of the first issues to tackle is cultural negatives around sleep. Promoting sleep might at first sound counter intuitive – many of our workplace messages around high performance revolve around stamina and long hours, or going the extra mile. However, in order to be sustainable, performance needs to be more balanced. Initiatives such as flexible working which promote a healthy work-life balance can reduce stress and improve sleep. Training can provide managers with the skills and confidence to spot warning signs associated with lack of sleep, ask the right questions and advise on sleep hygiene to support team members and colleagues.
Some companies including Google, Nike and NASA are encouraging naps in specially-created zones or you could encourage employees to adopt mindfulness techniques such as meditation and provide opportunities for them to practice at work.
Here are some tips on how to get good night’s sleep
Don’t drink caffeine too close to bedtime
A US study found that having a moderate amount of caffeine 0-6 hours before bedtime has a significant effect on sleep disturbance. It takes time for the effects of caffeine to wear off, so try cutting off your intake of caffeine at least 6 hours before going to bed.
Turn off all electronic devices two hours before you go to sleep
LED lights, computer and phone screens all emit a blue light which alters the body’s internal clock and prevents us from sleeping. Switch phones and screens to “night” mode, or even better, turn them off at least two hours before bedtime to help your body relax.
Take a hot bath or read a book
Sometimes we forget to have a bit of “me” time. Taking time before bed to relax by taking a bath, reading a book or any other activities that relaxes you, activates the parasympathetic system – also known as the “rest and digest” system; our body rebalances and relaxes, and sleep can come much more naturally and easily.
Write down your worries before you go to bed
Clear your head of that to do list and your worries and anxieties about the next day by writing them down. This should help to keep your thoughts out of your head so you can relax.
Want to do more? Then try this simple relaxation technique.
If sleep is on your agenda this year, we can offer bite-sized courses covering which can help. Why don’t you take a look at our Optimising energy and wellbeing, Building Resilience and Mindfulness at work courses.