Sleep deprivation and sickness absence
Everyone instinctively knows about the importance of having a good night’s sleep. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re all getting one. In fact, the rising use of mobile devices before bed has been shown to have a detrimental effect on our sleeping patterns.
A Rand Europe report, Why Sleep Matters: The economic costs of insufficient sleep, suggested that tiredness and exhaustion due to lack of sleep cost the UK economy £40bn a year through reduced productivity and sickness absence.
In fact, it’s suggested that sleep deprivation at work costs the UK 200,000 working days per year.
For this reason, organisations are beginning to include the topic of a good night’s sleep within their workplace health and wellbeing strategy.
The impact of sleep deprivation
The average person spends around a third of their life asleep. It gives your body time to replenish its energy stores, make repairs and store memories. Generally speaking, 18-65 year-olds should get around 7-9 hours’ sleep per day.
The Sleep Council is an impartial organisation that looks at how you can adopt healthier sleep habits. They say that lack of sleep is having a seriously damaging effect on our mental and physical health, with research showing that lack of sleep erodes concentration and problem-solving ability.
Sleep deprivation and sickness absence
Generally speaking, human beings can live longer without food (about 11 days) than they can without sleep.
Lack of sleep has obvious health implications, but has also been found to raise mortality risk by 13%, not to mention the increased chance of accidents occurring at work.
The Rand Europe report also found a correlation between sleep deprivation at work and reduced productivity. In relation to absence management, staff who slept less than six hours per day lost more days per year than staff who slept seven to nine hours.
How employers can help prevent sleep deprivation
Scientists have found a direct correlation between anxiety and rhythm of sleep. When a person is anxious, their heart rate increases, making them too stimulated to sleep.
Employers can help to ease this by limiting out-of-hours communication, deterring the excessive use of electronic devices outside of working hours, and discouraging the expectations that staff should be available online after working hours.
While the concept of a siesta might not be feasible in a busy work environment, the likes of Google and the Huffington Post now provide “nap rooms” for staff to catch up on lost sleep.
Health issues, such as being overweight or a heavy drinker/smoker, can relate to lack of sleep, as well as the use of certain medication. As a result, work health assessments can help with the early identification of any issues affecting sleep, thus limiting sickness absence.
Some firms, including accountancy firm PwC, have introduced “sleep training” programmes involving specialist sleep experts.
Sleep patterns in shift workers
Shift workers, in particular, can be especially susceptible to sleep-related problems and suffering the effects of sleep deprivation at work. Educating staff and managers about flexible scheduling can avoid unrealistic time pressures.
A British Medical Journal review looked at the health consequences of shift work and insufficient sleep and found that the best way to improve sleep in shift workers was to arrange a forward-rotating shift system (day-evening-night) which avoided short recovery periods (less than 11 hours).
Fusion’s top tips for a good night’s sleep
1. Keep regular hours
Try to go to bed at roughly the same time each night and develop a sleep routine. This might involve taking a bath, reading a book, or listening to music.
2. Think about your bedroom
Is it dark enough? Is it quiet enough? Is it too hot or cold? Is the bed comfortable?
3. Avoid electronic devices
No TV. No smartphones. No tablets
4. No food or alcohol before bed
Too much food can interrupt sleep patterns, and alcohol will disrupt sleep later in the night. Replace tea or coffee with a milky or herbal drink.
5. A little exercise can go a long way
A swim or brisk walk in the early evening can help to get rid of any pent-up energy and also gives you time to process your day.
6. Clear your mental decks
Don’t attempt to go over any worries you might have while in bed. Put aside some time during the evening to review the day and make a list of what you want to achieve tomorrow.
Above all, business owners should be aware of the importance of a good night’s sleep for their employees. Introducing an occupational health strategy that recognises this can provide benefits to both employers and staff.
If you’d like to find out more, contact the team at Fusion today.