Why Sleep Matters

In our latest blog, Celine reflects on our latest lunchtime seminar in Glasgow with Strathclyde Sleep Research Unit.

On Thursday 30th May, I attended a very interesting and thought-provoking seminar with Strathclyde Sleep Research Unit to discuss why sleep matters and the effects of not getting enough sleep on your physical and mental health, your behaviour, and your performance at work.

It amazed me that given how vital sleep is, it is still not considered as important as an employee being off sick. For example, if an employee called in sick that would be very much accepted but if an employee called in and said that they were unable to attend work due to lack of sleep, this would be very much unacceptable. We delved into this a bit further during the seminar to discuss the effects of lack of sleep and how it can impact your performance at work. Employees who suffer from lack of sleep are more likely to suffer from depression, make mistakes at work, be unable to focus and concentrate on tasks, and have a low mood and appear grumpy.

So why is sleep not being taken seriously if these are the effects?

Some companies are now putting more of a focus on mental health and wellbeing. Take Google for example, they have introduced sleep pods in the workplace so that employees can take naps. It seems ridiculous at first, but maybe they have worked out the connection between sleep and employee performance!

Some of the recommendations for employers to manage this growing problem are:

Sleep Status Surveys – find out how many of your employees would say that they get a good night’s sleep and how many would say they don’t.

Supply Sleep Leaflets – give employees tips on having a good night’s sleep and maybe even list the Do’s and Don’ts.

‘Duvet Days’ – Consider letting employees have one duvet day per year where if they haven’t had a good night’s sleep for whatever reason, they can have the day off. Quite controversial but think about how productive that employee will actually be if they do attend work. Why not let them have the day to recover and they’ll be back the next day ready to work hard? Not to mention they might be so grateful for that extra day that this could even increase their happiness at work and productivity.

Interestingly, we also discussed a lack of sleep potentially being the cause of depression in some cases. If that is the case, by educating yourself about the importance of sleep and the effects of a lack of sleep as well as having a very open mind when it comes to employee wellbeing, organisations could see a huge benefit in employee productivity and engagement, as well as the financial benefits due to less employees being off sick and a better standard of work being produced.

If you think about it, the support available for insomnia isn’t something that is often talked about. We know the support available for people suffering from depression and anxiety but who do you turn to when you can’t sleep? Most people would go to see their GP who will prescribe them with an anti-depressant but is that really fixing the problem? While medication may help, it doesn’t fix the underlying issue that is causing the lack of sleep and that’s where the Strathclyde Sleep Research Unit come in. The SSRU has developed a programme for people suffering from insomnia that includes Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for insomnia (CBT-i). The therapy aims to help poor sleepers overcome the experience of being unable to sleep. Research indicates that approximately 70% of those who have received CBT-i report significant and long-lasting improvements to sleep quality and quantity.

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