Lack of sleep: Causes and effects

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Health Assured team

08 July 2019

You probably don’t get enough sleep—and neither do the employees in your care.

That may sound like a bold claim, but there are figures to back it up. The NHS recommends between seven and nine hours of sleep a night, but according to a study the average UK adult gets between 5.8 and 6.8 hours a night. That’s a pretty significant lack of sleep.

So, what are the effects of not enough sleep on the workforce?

Tiredness has a serious effect on productivity. In fact, the RAND Corporation ran some numbers and found that the UK loses 200,000 working days due to the adverse effects of a lack of sleep. That adds up to $50 billion in lost earnings.

What can a lack of sleep cause?

There are many ill effects of not enough sleep. While you can get away with the occasional all-nighter, continuously going to bed too late and waking up too early produces the following lack of sleep effects:

  • Irritability and short temper.
  • Inability to concentrate and make decisions.
  • Depression.
  • Poor judgment.
  • Risk of injury.

If your employees work with machinery, it’s clear this is dangerous. But it doesn’t stop there.

There's further lack of sleep side effects that can be damaging to long-term health. By neglecting your sleep hygiene, you can:

  • Develop obesity and diabetes.
  • Suffer stress and lack of sleep anxiety.
  • Increase the risk of heart disease.
  • Shorten your life expectancy.

What should I look out for?

It’s not just constant daytime tiredness—there are several lack of sleep symptoms you should be aware of in your staff. If you notice:

  • Excessive yawning.
  • Forgetfulness.
  • A lack of motivation.
  • Clumsiness
  • Moodiness.
  • An inability to take in new information.

Then it’s likely people aren’t getting enough sleep.

What causes bad sleep?

Some people have too much to do and the stress means they can’t drift off. Some people have children to look out for, meaning little time (and lots of noise). Some people are ‘night owls’ who find sleep at night much more difficult.

You might think this lack of sleep means it’s hard to help people. After all, there’s no catch-all solution. But there are things you can do that should help everyone.

So what can you do to combat the adverse effects of lack of sleep among your employees? While you can’t order them to sleep more, there are some friendly ways to encourage better sleep:

  • Remote work: Some people face a hefty commute—sometimes a journey of hours each way. Allowing a day per week working remotely can help people with massive commutes. An extra two hours in the day can mean an extra two hours catching up on personal time.
  • A healthier office: Many employees try to beat back the effects of not sleeping with caffeine and energy drinks. This works—in the short term. But there’s an inevitable crash and you’ll find productivity slumps. Provide healthy, energy-giving snacks and drinks like nuts, seeds and fresh water. You’ll soon see people perking up.
  • Encouragement: Communicate and promote the benefits of good sleep. Send an internal newsletter with guidance, share articles on good sleep practice, and ensure your employees know about the efforts you’re making.
  • Managing workloads: If people are overworked, they’re likely stressed—and stress crushes sleep. If people are taking work home with them and seem tired in the morning, you need to look at reducing their workload. And make sure people know it’s fine to have a day off just to rest every so often!

Health Assured can help you to communicate about the benefits of sleep to your people.

Contact us on 0844 892 2493 to talk about our EAP and the ways in which it’ll boost productivity.

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