Are your sleep deprived employees costing your business?

World Sleep Day - March 15

Research shows that sleep deprivation amongst employees is costing the UK economy up to £40 billion per year.*
 
Are your sleep deprived employees contributing to the 200,000 working days that are lost each year due to this?**
 
Sleep is essential to workplace productivity. Employees who regularly have less than six hours of sleep each night, or experience broken sleep cycles - where they wake up in the night and are unable to get back to sleep, will likely be sleep deprived and play a part in these statistics.  
 
63% of Britons are unhappy with the amount of sleep they get, according to the 2016 Sleep Survey, conducted by Dreams. A lack of sleep can have various physical and psychological causes, but the most common are:
1. Stress and anxiety
2. Lifestyle – e.g. working night shifts, having a newborn baby or excessive alcohol consumption
3. Restless leg syndrome – employees should consult their GP if they think they may be suffering from this. 
 
A lack of sleep can have a great impact on both working life and social life. Employees may become more irritable and find it harder to concentrate, impacting on their workplace productivity. A lack of sleep can also make employees feel down and therefore can impact on their mental health. Experiencing a lack of sleep over time can also seriously affect physical health, causing individuals to be more prone to serious medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. 
 
Sleeping well has many physical and psychological benefits. According to the NHS, these include a better immune system, better mental wellbeing, and less chance of developing medical conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. A better night’s sleep can also increase sex drive and help boost fertility. 
 
Employees experiencing trouble sleeping may benefit from improving their ‘sleep hygiene’ according to Cat Lovell, Clinical Lead at BHSF Occupational Health. 
 

“Improving sleep hygiene can be as simple as reducing caffeine intake after mid-day, or getting into the habit of a pre-sleep routine. 

 
“A bedtime routine can be an important tool to achieving a good night’s sleep. This should start with setting a bedtime and sticking to this throughout the week. About an hour before sleep, screens (laptop, phone, TV) should be avoided.”
 
Cat adds: “A bedroom should be a screen-free zone. For those who struggle to sleep, try to avoid having a television in there. 
 
“Start winding down with a bath or shower, and maybe try a hot de-caffeinated drink to relax. Alcohol should be avoided before bed to achieve a good night’s sleep.
 
“Make sure the bedroom is dark and not too hot or too cold.”
 
But what about those employees that the above advice is too late for? Here are five tips for employees trying to survive work on little or no sleep:
 
1. Any important decisions should be made in the morning, before the afternoon dip hits
2. Suggest a nap if possible – research by NASA suggests 40 mins can improve performance
3. Sit them close to a window – sunlight should help to keep them awake
4. Encourage them to take a walk at lunchtime – physical activity keeps the brain active
5. Avoid carbohydrates – instead they should opt for protein rich snacks, such as nuts
 
For employees who are severely sleep deprived, they will likely need to catch up on sleep before they can commit to a set routine. Employees should set aside a day off to catch up on sleep, going to bed when they are tired the night before and avoiding an alarm, opting for a natural wake up. The NHS states that sleep deprived employees should expect to sleep for longer than 10 hours on the first night, and for it to take a couple of weeks to recover before setting a sleep routine. 
 
If employees are still struggling to sleep after one month of the above routine, they should consult their GP. 
 
 
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