The Healthier Nation Index report has recently been published, revealing some startling statistics about sleeping patterns.
People are now getting less than 6 hours a night of sleep – which is a sizeable difference to the 7-9 hours of sleep recommended by the UK’s National Health Service. This drop seems to be due to the fact that 45% of respondents reported they had got less sleep over the past 12-months than in previous years – and nearly half (49%) said that their sleep quality had also worsened.
These same respondents reported that their lack of sleep was having knock-on effects of feeling depressed, an increased likelihood of becoming unwell, struggling to eat healthily, failing to exercise, and low productivity levels.
The latter is because sleep loss can make it challenging to maintain focus, attention and vigilance. This happens due to the increase of ‘microsleeps’ (brief episodes of non-responsiveness that cause lapses in attention) someone will have during their day to compensate for sleep deprivation.
For employers, these findings are particularly worrying. Having sleep-deprived employees can lead to a decrease in productivity and engagement, an increase in absences – or both.
In the spirit of Sleeptember, here’s some advice on how employers can play their part in enhancing sleep quality amongst their workforce:
- Build sleep into wider wellbeing strategies – review current wellbeing strategies and pinpoint where initiatives that aim to improve sleep can be woven in. These will tend to compliment other areas of wellbeing, such as nutrition, brain health, and exercise. Offering line managers training around recognising the signs and symptoms of sleep deprivation is also key to ensuring that the right people are actually taking these strategies into account in their daily lives, as some may not be aware that they are having difficulties in the first place.
- Signpost to the right support – managers that can identify those in need of support with their sleeping patterns will then need to know the best course of action to help. Having general lifestyle strategies is a great first step, and these can be implemented in innovative ways (for example, life insurance broker YuLife have gamified their experience to keep employees active physically and mentally), but sometimes there may be something deeper underlying at the root cause of sleep deprivation. Ensuring that they know the right channels to filter them through – whether that be internal (Employee Assistance Programs) or external (counselling, insomnia therapy), having the knowledge around this topic is the key to combatting it.
- Follow the leader – an experiment conducted a few years ago discovered that those who were sleep deprived were considered 13% less charismatic as leaders. This was linked to the fact that when we get enough sleep, we’re likely to feel positive and this positive energy gets transmitted to the people around us. So, to have the organization’s leaders promoting good sleep is one thing, but ensuring they do it themselves is equally as important.
There are also some more experimental strategies that employers can consider; one which is increasingly gaining popularity is the idea of encouraging naps during the workday (which you can read about in more depth here). But the key takeaway from this is that, as a company is only as strong as its people, good sleep plays a vital role in the overall performance of the business.
If you would like to discuss how we can help train and support leadership around the implementation of sleep strategies, please get in touch with us!