The Importance Of Sleep: Why Employers Should Respect The Snooze!

How much sleep do you get? Even if you’re someone that doesn’t feel a lack of sleep, bad snoozing might create sleeping habits detrimental to your well-being. It’s important to understand what sleep does for you and how much you need of it.

Insufficient sleep is a public health problem, and one that’s easy to fall prey to. Here’s the low-down.


A widespread issue

A study by the US Institute of Medicine estimates that “50 to 70 million Americans chronically suffer from a disorder of sleep and wakefulness”. Even though this problem is on the rise, awareness amongst the public, professionals and management remains low. In other words, it’s possible that work - in the general sense - is promoting a work-life balance that is detrimental to healthy sleeping habits.

The sleep-deprivation epidemic also negatively affects the job market; a lack of flexibility in work-life balance is cited as one of the top reasons millennials quit jobs. Poor sleep also contributes to decreased employee productivity, to the cost of employers. In other words, management would be wise to take a step towards sleep management and a step backwards from a negative work culture.


With key effects

Sleep is key to normal cognitive function. Basic tasks such as information retention, analysis and memorisation all rely on the individual being well-rested. However, in the context of our working lives and the resulting sleep deprivation, we are also affected by decreased long-term memory and decision-making abilities. This no doubt has important impacts on work performance and productivity.

If corporate management are so concerned with maximising productivity in their employees, why are they actively handicapping them in their ability to analyze and handle data? It’s proven that getting enough sleep leads to higher productivity levels and affects economic outcomes in the sense of reducing costs to employers. After all, most unproductive employees continue to be paid regardless of output.

There’s a significant irony here. As management continues to fail at successfully promoting a work culture against sleep deprivation, employees continue to work in an information-age economy where information retention, analysis and problem solving are at the core of many industries.


A new trend

Even though so much research has been completed, positive sleep management is but a small new trend. In Japan, only 54% of Japanese workers felt that they had a good night’s sleep every or almost every night on work nights or week nights. Some Japanese firms have decided to take the matter in their own hands, and actively encourage their employees to take 20-minute power naps at their desks, or at provided sleeping areas in-office.

Employees have reported that getting that extra sleep has been beneficial to their work performance. Most of them feared making mistakes, and having to double-check their work, which ended up taking more time – feelings which the nap helped to stave off. This growing acceptance towards sleeping in the workplace is the result of a health campaign run by the Japanese health ministry on the importance of sleep.

The Japanese workforce is one of the most sleep deprived workforces in the world. The US National Sleep Foundation found that Japanese workers sleep for 6 hours and 22 minutes on average every night, 38 minutes off the recommended lowest amount of 7 hours. In comparison, British workers get only 27 minutes more, but lack the government framework and acceptance for sleep in the workplace.


What can you do?

If it’s commonly accepted that sleep has no clear place in the workplace, then changing your own sleeping habits to actively combat sleep deprivation must come from yourself. Working a normal 9-to-5 gives you approximately 5 hours - minus the commute - of downtime before you should think about going to bed. A 10 or 11PM bedtime schedule is ideal as you are guaranteed at least 7 hours of sleep.

Bad habits such as watching TV, staying on the internet or using your phone will not only drag out your night but also affect your sleep levels. Melatonin is a chemical that your brain releases at night to induce sleep, and exposure to the light of electronic devices - ‘blue light’ - suppresses its release. The bottom line? Don’t use your devices at night – or, if you really can’t help it, use them with screen-tone dimming software such as f.lux, which will make your screen take a warmer tone at night so as to avoid the dreaded blue light.

Despite the Japanese workforce’s reputation of being hard-working, many companies and management have integrated sleep into the workplace and work culture. Other countries in Asia have followed suit, with Chinese tech start-ups (and its hardcore overtime culture) allowing their employees to “day-doze” and providing them with sleeping facilities. Hopefully, this trend will reach the UK work culture soon.


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