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Want a more productive team? Start thinking about sleep

Published by: greghalliday,

sleep habitsThe key to getting more out of your employees may come down to their sleep habits. How much your team sleeps at night and the quality of their sleep can have a great impact on their productivity, boosting their mental, physical and emotional well-being in and out of the office.

In a time when the UK has been nicknamed the “Procrastination Nation”, it’s important for managers to promote healthy sleep habits to encourage higher productivity.

Why does sleep matter?

Sleep issues are one of the most commonly reported mental health complaints in the world. Some studies have found that up to one third of the population in Western countries either don’t get enough sleep at night or have conditions that affect the quality of their sleep. Issues with sleep are often cyclical, which can then cause anxiety about poor sleep and further impact one’s ability to sleep.

Chronic sleep issues are associated with low mood, loss of concentration and reduced memory function—all major concerns in a workplace that’s striving to become more productive. A person regularly getting less than six hours per night can experience cognitive performance deficits equal to up to two nights of total sleep deprivation. Even relatively moderate sleep loss has been found to impair neurobehavioural functions in healthy adults.

Lack of sleep in the workplace

In the U.S., a national sleep study conducted in 2008 found that as many as 29% of full-time employees reported falling asleep or becoming excessively sleepy on the job. Researchers also found that as many as 37% of full-time employees could be at risk of developing a sleep disorder. Chronic sleep deprivation is common among workers and has been associated with negative work outcomes, including absenteeism, drops in performance, and even occupational accidents.

Long work hours have been found to be directly connected to shorter sleep times, which in turn are associated with higher levels of negative work outcomes, according to research conducted by the University of Michigan and Washington State University.

What managers can do to help their teams

Having a conversation with employees who are showing signs of excessive sleepiness or fatigue is the most important step in supporting total employee well-being and helping your team regain their productivity. Educating yourself so you understand the causes of sleep issues and the extent to which these can impact an employee can also help you offer further support.

Don’t dismiss a quick snooze at work. If an employee has been struggling with sleep for a short period of time, setting aside a quiet space for them to nap can help boost their productivity. A nap of less than 30 minutes during the day promotes wakefulness and can enhance cognitive performance and learning abilitySeveral studies have even found that napping for as little as 10 minutes can improve performance.

However, frequent napping for lengthy periods of time can also have negative side-affects and is not a solution for chronic sleep issues. If you notice an employee has been struggling to stay awake over a significant period of time (two weeks or longer), consider asking them to speak to their GP or local health professional. They may be asked to keep a sleep diary and/or engage in other exercises to help pinpoint the source of their sleep troubles. The sooner they seek professional help, the more likely it is that these issues will be resolved.

If you’re a LifeWorks user and want more information about getting a good night’s rest, search for the article “Ten Tips for Getting a Good Night’s Sleep.” You can find it on the LifeWorks mobile app or by going to

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