The benefits of a good sleep

I think most of us would accept that without a good night’s sleep we may not be at our best during working hours. Yet the reality of what this may mean for the quality and volume of our daily work – and the associated impact on the productivity of the employer – is perhaps much less understood.

With this in mind we were delighted to once again welcome broadcaster, author, and psychologist Dr David Lewis to our annual Health & Wellbeing event earlier this week. Dr Lewis explored the subject of sleep in some detail together with some thoughts as to how to improve sleep patterns.

This subject sparked some real interest in our audience, and I have therefore been undertaking some research of my own on this important topic over the last few days. So what have I found, and why should employers take note of this issue?

Let’s start with some facts and figures.

In 2010 The Sleep Council found that 27% of people slept for only five-to-six hours per night. The same organisation found that by 2013 that number had increased to a third (33%) of us. So it would appear that an increasing number of people are getting by on less sleep.

But so what? Presumably not everyone needs the generally accepted 7 – 9 hours sleep that is recommended for an adult? So perhaps that 33% represents those that can function fully with less sleep?

Yet a straw poll of our delegates on Tuesday suggests that this may not be the case. We asked: How much sleep do YOU need each night to function well at work?

The audience response is shown below:

  • Less than 6 hours: 2.22%
  • 6 hours: 17.78%
  • 7 hours: 41.11%
  • 8 hours: 33.33%
  • 9 hours or more: 5.56%

Admittedly this is not particularly scientific, but even this relatively small slice of data suggests a fairly major miss-match between sleep achieved and sleep needed.

So, for the purposes of this post, let us accept that this is perhaps more of a problem than it might at first appear. But what is the actual impact for employers?

Research undertaken by The Rand Corporation found that the economic and societal effects of sleep deprivation cost the UK 1.86% of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP). That may not sound particularly significant, yet this equates to a fiscal impact of some $50bn. And of course a significant slice of that burden is being shouldered directly by UK employers.

The bottom line is that sleep deprivation appears to be a growing problem for employees, and by extension their employers and indeed the wider UK economy. This is therefore yet another headwind for the country to consider as it seeks to tackle the Productivity Puzzle which is becoming increasingly important as the UK approaches the point of Brexit.

It is accepted that this subject is a difficult one for employers to influence given that sleep, by definition, happens outside of the working day. Yet it can’t hurt to direct employees to websites which contain hints and tips on this important topic. The links above may be of some use, and indeed Dr Lewis’ website The Mind Changers is also worth a look as it contains much information on this topic, and indeed many other psychological issues as well.

Finally, don’t forget the tools and assistance that may already be available within your existing Health & Wellbeing package as well. For more information on such options please speak to your usual Jelf Consultant in the first instance.