Sleep is vital for healthy living, including your physical health as well as supporting healthy brain function. In this blog we look at the dangers sleep deprivation can have on our bodies, the positives of sleep for both employees and employers and how to adopt a healthy sleep routine.
Negatives of Sleep Deprivation
The recommended amount of sleep for adults is between 7 and 9 hours a night. If you are regularly not sleeping for this period of time you risk suffering from sleep deprivation which can decrease your productivity levels, induce drowsiness, feelings of stress and even depression as well as weakening your immune system.
These are just a few of the negative effects too little sleep can have on our bodies. Sleep deprivation can also be extremely troublesome for work life, from lower productivity to poor hand-eye coordination and slower reaction times which can cost employers billions each year in workplace incidents.
The Science Behind Sleep
Not only does the quantity of your sleep matter, but also the quality. Our body clocks are naturally suited to align with nature’s sunlight. Exposure to sunlight causes our brains to transmit a message to our bodies, causing a rise in temperature and stimulating our metabolisms. To support sleep, our bodies react to night-time with higher melatonin levels, a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle, which remains high throughout the night. Therefore, to benefit from our body’s natural connection with nature, we should align our sleeping patterns with the sun’s presence, approximately around 10pm to 6am. It has been found that our strongest sleep drive is between 2am and 4am therefore for restorative, dream-rich sleep, you should go to bed between 8pm and 12pm.
According to the Sleep Council, around 200,000 working days are lost each year in the UK due to employees not getting enough sleep, costing the economy a huge £30 billion. To help form a healthy sleep culture, there are three top factors that encourage and help employees gain the right amount of sleep.
- Scheduled Breaks:Taking breaks will decrease feelings of fatigue and will leave employees feeling more alert, therefore creating a higher output of productivity. Employees may wish to use this time to have a quick nap, allowing them to recharge their batteries. Leading companies such as Nike and NASA have both incorporated sleep pods and nap time to increase the efficiency and productivity of breaks. Employers who facilitate this culture are said to benefit from an overall increase in the performance of their workforce.
- Modify Workplace Environment:Lighting, temperature and noise are three aspects that impact the alertness of employees. For example, during night shifts, improving the lighting and brightness will give employees the feeling of being more awake and alert. In addition to this, facilitating access to natural light has also been found to reduce stress and increase productivity, creating a happier and more awake workforce. High temperatures can also create feelings of stress as well as leaving employees feeling fatigued and drowsy so cooler conditions are optimal.
- Introduce Flexible Working Hours:Giving employees more control over their schedule has been found in a study by Science Directto not only help employees get more sleep, but also better quality sleep.
Taking Control of Your Own Sleep
If you are concerned about your own sleeping patterns, there are also some practices you can put in place to give yourself the best chance of a peaceful night’s sleep.
- Stop Drinking Caffeine:Caffeine in your bloodstream will make it extremely hard for you to sleep. Keep your caffeine intake to strictly a morning consumption, otherwise it will still be too high a strength at bedtime for you to sleep.
- Avoid Mobile Devices:Electronic devices give off blue light which impedes the production of melatonin, making you feel more alert. In the evening, try to reduce the usage of mobiles, laptops and tablets to allow your eyes to rest and prepare your body for sleep.
- Have a Consistent Morning Routine:Your body needs to learn when it is time for you to wake up so that your brain can begin to increase your hormone levels, blood pressure and body temperature. If you rise at different times each day your brain won’t know when to prepare your body to wake up, leaving you struggling in the morning.
- Engage in Power Naps:During the afternoon your melatonin levels rise. Depending on whether or not you are in sleep debt you may be able to fight the need to nap, but if not a short power nap will allow you to recharge.
- Create a Suitable Sleep Environment:Your bedroom needs to be a suitable environment for sleep, which means having low noise levels, blocking out light and being kept at a cool temperature.
Following these steps will help you avoid sleep deprivation, promoting healthy living as well as increasing productivity. Therefore, employees and employers alike should both adopt a healthy sleep culture in order to receive the mutual benefits it presents.
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