Sleep hygiene: Seven ways to improve employee performance

HRD investigates why shut-eye is particularly important during the pandemic

Sleep hygiene: Seven ways to improve employee performance

For the uninitiated, the term 'sleep hygiene’ refers to having both a bedroom environment and daily routines that promote consistent, uninterrupted sleep. 

Signs of poor sleep hygiene include experiencing frequent sleep disturbances, suffering daytime sleepiness and having a hard time falling asleep.

While the likes of former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer can get by on four hours of sleep a night, it’s a very different story for the rest of us. For the vast majority of shift workers and employees, research shows that they need around 8-9 hours of sleep to function properly.

Chelsea Konyk, registered nurse and mental health consultant at Gallagher Bassett, said that in the ‘new normal’ there are many things we can do to strengthen wellbeing, one of which is prioritising sleep hygiene.

“Staying connected, adhering to a schedule and maintaining proper sleep habits are just some of the ways employees can look after their mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.

“Having a good sleep cycle will positively impact your mood, energy levels, concentration, memory and ability to handle stress.”

According to Konyk, steps to improve your sleep hygiene include:

  • Staying off your phone for at least an hour before bed, as the bright light impacts your ability to fall asleep
  • Avoiding caffeine in the evening
  • Limiting daily naps to 30 minutes
  • Waking up and going to bed at the same time each day
  • Developing a sleep ritual/routine
  • Creating a calm bedroom space
  • Avoid watching TV or gaming in bed.

Konyk added that there are many things beyond our control right now that may leave us feeling anxious, and can impact sleep patterns.

However, there are still things within our control that can help us maintain a sense of purpose and wellbeing.

Read more: Why HR should encourage employees to sleep more

“We can do this by staying connected with one another, maintaining a routine whenever possible, looking after our physical and mental health, and seeking professional support when we need it,” said Konyk.

“We can train our minds, just as much as we can train our bodies, to be more resilient to stress, develop better coping techniques, and to improve how we respond to challenging situations.”

Whether you're working from home or off work temporarily, Konyk said it's important to stay connected to your colleagues. This can be achieved by planning regular catch-ups, using video chat if possible.

And these conversations don’t all have to be about work. They can simply be used to build stronger connections with one another.

“Staying connected reminds employees that they are cared about, even if it’s just a quick check-in to see how someone is doing,” she said.

Read more: Losing sleep? Blame your rude co-workers

“It promotes a safe space to express concerns or reach out for help, and enables supportive relationships within the workspace.”

In order to keep the mind relaxed, focused and positive, Konyk also recommends to:

  • Try to maintain a routine that includes waking up and going to bed at the same time
  • Go outside daily for exercise and fresh air
  • If you are working from home, take regular breaks and work normal hours
  • Set two small achievable tasks every day: One task that will make you feel you’ve accomplished something; such as a household chore, online learning, exercise, or walk outside. And one enjoyable task like reading, meditation, playing a game, stretching, or phoning a friend

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