Why HR should encourage employees to sleep more

There are important things employers can do to ensure their staff are rested and ready to work

Why HR should encourage employees to sleep more

We’ve become an ‘always-on’ society and while it may seem like a win for businesses, what they gain in hours is lost in efficiency, according to Marcela Slepica, Clinical Director at AccessEAP.

“Keeping our phones and laptops within arm’s reach at all times to work at any given time has a significant impact on our mental and physical health,” Slepica added.

“In this fast-paced environment, something has to give, and for many it’s sleep.”

Slepica said we are in a “dangerous cycle of not getting all of the work done” because we’re sleep deprived and not sleeping because we’re not getting all of the work done.

Why is this so important in the workplace context? Lack of sleep negatively affects our ability to think clearly, learn, concentrate and retain important information, which affects efficiency at work.

In a recent study by the American Journal of Health Promotion, employees who reported ‘almost always’ feeling tired during the day had 4.4 times more productivity loss than those who reported ‘almost never’ feeling tired.

Moreover, insufficient sleep also impacts our mood and emotional wellbeing.

“Whilst extreme lack of sleep can induce serious psychological effects such as paranoia and memory loss, more subtle consequences such as anger and impatience can also prove challenging in a professional environment,” said Slepica.

Teamwork and cooperation play an essential role in a business success, so when short tempers flare, relationships between colleagues become strained.

According to the Hult International Business School, 84% of people feel more irritable as a result of poor sleep, and with a volatile work atmosphere, staff members can become disengaged and negative, which contribute to a poor team culture and low morale.

READ MORE: Lack of sleep could be hurting your leadership

Inadequate sleep also kills more than 3,000 Australians each year due to workplace and road accidents, and the total cost of work-related injuries and fatalities as a result of poor sleep is estimated at $2.25 billion 1 per year.

These risks of fatigue are more prominent in businesses where shifts are common or employees are on call, such as factories, constructions sites and hospitals. In these industries, fatigue-related errors could have serious consequences for not only the workers but others around them.

Whilst employees should take responsibility for their own sleep patterns, there are things that organisations can do to help ensure their staff are rested and ready to work.

“Try to make sure that staff are exposed to natural light, this activates the circadian rhythm, the natural 24-hour cycle that regulates our sleep/wake cycle, and keeps our internal body clock in balance ensuring that we are ready for sleep at night,” said Slepica.

“Disrupting the circadian rhythm has direct links to health problems such as obesity and diabetes. Lack of natural sunlight can also lead to depression, especially in the winter months.”

READ MORE: CEO pays employees to sleep more

Slepica offers the following advice that employers can give to staff to help them achieve a good night sleep and ensure positivity and productivity the next day:

  • Regular sleep patterns, establishing a sleep routine or ritual is about what you do leading up to a set bedtime and also having a set wake up time.
  • A warm bath or shower before bed can trick the body into relaxation by loosening the muscles.
  • For optimum ability to fall asleep your bedroom should be dark and comfortable with moderate to cool temperature and importantly free of electronic devices.
  • A helpful approach for a busy mind is to write notes/lists before bedtime, to help calm the mind. Listening to soft music can assist with calming. Do not allow yourself to ‘thrash around' for more than 15-20 minutes before getting up. There are many apps available to help.
  • Spicy food, alcohol, caffeine, exercises just before bed, all have a detrimental effect on sleep.
  • Muscle spasms or cramps can keep people awake; magnesium may help to alleviate symptoms. Incorporate pulses, nuts, spinach and potatoes into your diet to make sure you’re reaching the recommended levels.
  • If you regularly wake up during the night and have difficulty falling back to sleep, it may be helpful to get up, drink some water or a soothing camomile tea, sit and gaze at the stars or quietly breathe, rather than lying in bed tense and frustrated. Once you are feeling soothed and settled, return to bed.
  • Meditation and deep breathing can be helpful before sleeping to still the mind.

1 The Cost of Inadequate Sleep among On-Call Workers in Australia: A Workplace Perspective 16 February 2018

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