Most people understand the negative effects improper sleep quantity can have on their daily activities. We’ve all heard a fellow employee say how they just need their five or six hours per night to function well the next day.
Adults are recommended by the National Sleep Foundation to get anywhere between seven and nine hours of sleep per night, so it’s already evident we don’t get enough on a regular basis. What most people don’t understand is that proper sleep quality is just as important as quantity – and can be just as troublesome if not satisfied.
When deprived of the rejuvenating effects of sleep, the brain’s ability to process new information is compromised along with creativity, logic and judgement – not a set of skills anyone would like to go a full workday without! In addition to the impact on the brain, the rest of the body takes a hit without sufficient sleep on a regular basis.
A workplace that promotes good sleep health helps to demonstrate the organization’s support of a healthy work-life balance. Employees appreciate the encouragement to go “offline” at a reasonable hour and are more likely to adapt their sleep habits to recommendations if they feel it won’t jeopardize their job performance.
The immune system is typically one of the first in the body to shut down when we feel stressed. People often lose sleep over stress as well so the connection between sleep and the immune system is a natural conclusion. Migraines and headaches are more commonly linked to people getting a lower quality of sleep, and those conditions greatly affect our productivity throughout the day as well. Poor nutritional choices are also more likely to occur when insufficient sleep is achieved, which can lead to a higher risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Our bodies love to sleep, and why wouldn’t they? Throughout the stages of sleep our bodies get to relax every muscle and repair some damage done throughout the day, lower our blood pressure and restore energy to recharge our systems for another extended period of being awake. Without this time to recharge, our systems continue to deplete until there is eventually a complete and total shutdown.
A couple of extra hours each night dedicated to maintaining proper physical and mental health through sleeping may allow us less free time during each day, but will most certainly benefit us in the long run.
There are certain practical steps we can take to ensure our mind and body are ready for a solid night’s sleep:
- Create a sleep routine – go to bed and wake up at close to or the same time each day (even weekends, there’s no need to “catch up” if we consistently get enough).
- Make physical activity a consistent part of each day, but not within 3 hours of going to bed.
- Limit intake of caffeine, alcohol and nicotine in general but especially during the evening hours as these stimulants will work against our brain’s desire to fall – and stay – asleep.
- Make the bedroom a haven for the weary. Darkness, quiet, comfortable temperature and sleeping area are all essential to creating an environment for a great sleep.
- Turn away from the light – all light. Luminescent clocks, plugin nightlights and personal technology like phones, tablets and computers all contribute to keeping the mind in a state of constant awareness.
Find ways to help your employees achieve the sleep quality and quantity they need to be their most productive self. If you can’t think of anything right now that’s fine, go sleep on it.
The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of Benefits Canada.