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Posted by HealthHero

World Sleep Day: understanding the importance of sleep

World Sleep Day: understanding the importance of sleep
5 minute read

When it comes to sleep, the UK is failing rather than falling. A recent study revealed more than 7.5 million (14 percent) of people sleep less than five hours a night, which is considered dangerously low. Almost three quarters of UK adults don’t reach the recommended seven to nine hours. The reality is the average UK adult sleeps just over six hours.

World Sleep Day is March 17. It’s an initiative to raise sleep health awareness. This year’s theme is ‘sleep is essential for health’ and affirms ‘sleep is a behaviour that is foundational to one’s physical, mental and social well-being.’

And if sleep is essential for health, it’s essential to the wellbeing of your workers. A company wanting their people to thrive needs to talk about sleep.

And if sleep is essential for health, it’s essential to the wellbeing of your workers. A company wanting their people to thrive needs to talk about sleep.

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Why sleep is important

Sleep aids memory, immune support and energy levels. Sleep deprivation can lead to serious health risks and affects brain function. It’s known that:

  • A single night of poor sleep affects attention span, recall and learning.
  • Forty-six percent of people who have interrupted sleep miss work or events and make errors at work.
  • Research showed people who sleep less than seven hours a night score lower on tests for mental function.
  • The link between sleep and mental health is undeniable as three quarters of depressed patients have insomnia symptoms.
  • Other health risks or poor or inadequate sleep include dementia and obesity.

Of course, poor cognitive function and energy levels will affect people at work. Workers need sleep to maintain their own mental and physical wellbeing and their productivity. If an employee sleeps less than six hours, they lose six more working days each year compared to a worker getting seven or more hours.

And on jobs like truck driving or construction, poor sleep poses a real danger. Poor sleep can increase risk taking and have the same effect as low-level intoxication.

‘The science is clear,’ according to Dr Holly Milling at The Sleep Practice. ‘Sleep is one of the biggest health investments we can make. …We need to stop seeing sleep as a luxury and start seeing it as a necessity.’

How to encourage employees to value sleep

Your employees might not realise how sleep habits affect them or their work. They may have accepted sleep deprivation as the status quo. Good sleep may feel out of reach to them because of life circumstances.

How do you encourage better sleep habits for your employees? What influence do you have over your workers’ sleep? Take heart. There are some things you can do for your people.

Raise awareness through events

In some countries, sleeping on the job is accepted, even a sign of hard work. But the culture at your company may not be ready for after-lunch naps and sleeping pods. Instead, start by opening a space for conversation about it.

World Sleep Day is the perfect occasion to talk about sleep. You can support the initiative in your workplace. It’s an opportunity to discuss why sleep matters. This includes the negative side of sleep loss and the benefits of good sleep.

Share tips

You can share the benefits of good sleep, but also the small changes that will reap those benefits.

The Sleep Foundation breaks good sleep habits into four categories:

  • Make a better sleep environment. Choose quality bedding, avoid light exposure and find the ideal temperature.
  • Take control of your sleep schedule. Good sleep comes from routine. Set a bedtime that allows you to achieve the ideal amount of sleep and wake up at the same time each day.
  • Create a bedtime routine. Good routine starts well before you close your eyes. In the evening, disconnect from devices (or at least dim the screens), avoid bright light and implement a wind down activity like reading or stretching.
  • Plan your day for good sleep. Good sleep is the product of intention throughout the day. You might moderate caffeine and alcohol intake, exercise and get plenty of natural light to help you sleep when the time comes.

These tips provide small, manageable steps for better sleep that anyone can implement.

Don’t dismiss tiredness

A worker might comment they haven’t slept well. You might observe the signs of tiredness like changes in behaviour or a shift in work quality. Your worker might look physically exhausted. Don’t ignore it.

The underlying reason could be serious. Increased stress, depression, sleep apnoea, or a life change like perimenopause all affect sleep.

You may be able help during work hours by shifting work with quick turnaround times or reassigning an administrative task for them. You can keep them apprised of company policy and how to access support so they can figure out how to navigate their season and keep up at work.

Offer support

Your employees need support and flexibility at work. But they may also need help outside of work hours like mental health support, coping strategies or even medical input.

Direct your employees to holistic, expert advice accessible in and outside of working hours. Symbio offers access to medical care and science-based content for employees who need support as they strive for better sleep. It’s available to workers 24/7.

Better sleep: vital to your workers’ wellbeing

Odds are your employees fall into the majority trying to function on little or interrupted sleep. They may not realise how their choices are affecting them. Or they may be in a season where they have no choice but to sacrifice sleep.

You can’t force your employees to go to sleep on time or implement the habits to improve sleep. It’s often not in your power to get them more sleep in a rough season of life.

It is in your power, though, to offer awareness, support and tools to your workers. Where you can, you can offer flexibility in schedules and workloads.

So many people try to do more with less when it comes to sleep. Make your workforce the exception to the rule. Your influence and support might be the difference between thriving and surviving.

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