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Making the Business Case for Sleep

Posted on February 21, 2018

We all know that if we have a bad night’s sleep, the next day we’re just not at our best.

We are often more irritable, find it hard to concentrate or don’t perform as well as usual and the longer our sleep is disrupted the worse these impacts get.

And these individual symptoms play out for employers in terms of direct impacts on productivity, poor customer service both internally and externally and increased risk of accidents in the workplace.

Because of this we’re seeing more and more businesses (in England and globally) taking an interest in the specific impact of sleep deprivation or disruption on the health and wellbeing of their employees and the implications for productivity and competitiveness.

This is supported by reports such as that by Rand Europe using data from 62,000 people in five major economies which concluded that the economic cost of tired employees (being less productive or absent from work altogether) amounted to almost two per cent of GDP.

Sleep deprivation and work

We need sleep as it’s essential for maintaining levels of cognitive skills such as speech, memory and innovative and flexible thinking.

It’s a period where our body recharges, repairs and restocks itself, so when an individual is sleep deprived this recovery time is lost.

Although we can cope with sleep loss for a couple of days, eventually the body just can’t keep limping on without this essential recovery time.

Shift work and night-time working come to mind when you start a conversation about sleep, but we all know that sleep deprivation isn’t just an issue for people working antisocial hours.

For instance stress at work or worries at home can keep us awake at night, and becoming a parent is a very common reason for sleep disruption, so it makes sense for all employers to think about the broad range of causes as well as potential action to help improve sleep quality and duration.

If we think about the importance elite athletes and sports teams place on getting adequate sleep before a match or event, you can see how achieving your potential is closely linked to getting a good night’s sleep.

Taking action in the workplace

Many workplace health concerns can be interconnected. Stress, pain from a musculoskeletal issue or depression all have impacts on sleep, and sleep disruption and deprivation can often be a symptom of other issues.

Taking action on sleep issues in the workplace is about considering prevention, like job planning or taking steps to mitigate stressors like night shifts or organisational change, as well as providing support and intervention when sleep issues are identified.

As with most health issues, prevention is always more cost effective than treatment and for business the potential gains in terms of productivity, and positive outcomes from avoiding sleep issues, could be significant.

Source: Public Health Matters 

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