Lately, it seems everywhere we turn, we are faced by the conflicting messages around what constitutes as healthy behaviours. But the one thing that is undeniable is the importance of good quality and quantity sleep. As a society, we are sleeping less than our grandparents, due to our reliance on technology and being constantly “on”.
From a workplace perspective, while the ability to be permanently connected via our smart phones might appear to be a benefit, paradoxically, the blurring of the lines between work and personal time is impacting our ability to recharge.
We all know that sleep is crucial for our physical wellbeing. But the current epidemic of sleep deprivation across Western culture, is also impacting our psychological health.
The question is, what can actually be done about this?
Tailored Fit, one of our trusted partners, posed this question to, Raewyn Guerrero, our CBT Hypnotherapist and Functional Medicine Health Coach and here is what she had to say.
How does too little or poor-quality sleep affect staff from a performance point of view?
“It’s harder for people to engage meaningfully when they are sleep deprived. They may be present physically but mentally, they’re not functioning at their best. They’re also less likely to be team players as they are more likely to be irritable. Low mood is a consequence of poor sleep and immunity also suffers, so they’re more likely to be ill. Metabolism is also dysregulated as a result of poor sleep, so losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight can be more difficult. Finally, from a performance point of view, the ability to focus and poor decision-making are probably the most noticeable negative effects.”
What can you do to improve sleep quality?
Here are Raewyn’s top three things that will make a massive difference:
- Make sleep a priority. It’s easy to get caught up in working late, or working out late, then coming home, having a late dinner, then wanting to unwind in front of the TV for a few hours, and before you know it, it’s 1am. Our best quality sleep occurs between 10pm – 2am. That’s when all our body’s restorative processes are in full flow, so maximise that window by being in bed and sleeping. Create a ritual around prepping the body for sleep. Dimming lights. Having a bath. Allow your brain and body a chance to wind down.
- Light plays a big role in regulating our body clock, or circadian rhythms. Minimise blue light exposure from your phone as this is disruptive to our production of melatonin, the antioxidant hormone, vital for good quality sleep and regulating immunity, mood, and metabolism. You can also help your production of melatonin by getting day light exposure to your eyes, during the early part of your day. So when you wake up, make sure and allow light to enter your eyes and at the end of the day, dim the lights and avoid checking your phone after 8pm.
- Minimise alcohol consumption on school nights. While alcohol does have a sedating effect initially, what it does to your sleep quality is horrendous which is why the following day, you always feel fuzzy and more tired. If you need to relax, why not try something like a guided meditation, or consider eating magnesium-rich foods like pumpkin seeds, spinach, and even dark chocolate, as magnesium has a relaxing effect, without the nasty side effects of alcohol.”
What can employers do to educate staff and promote behaviour change for better sleep?
“Employers can realise that a one-size-fits-all approach with employees can be harmful to their employees sleep and subsequent productivity. It’s important to understand that from a sleep perspective, genetically, there are two types of people – early birds and night owls.
Night owls are more creative and happy to work later in to the day, as their peak performance times happen around 9pm!
They struggle with thinking coherently or making presentations or sales pitches in the morning, so they’re less likely to be sharp and deliver at their best until later in the day.
Early birds however, can jump out of bed and be happy to begin early, but also like to go home early, so if you’re asking them to do presentations or sales pitches in the afternoon or evening then understand that they’re less likely to deliver at their best.
There’s a simple genetic test which can determine if you’re an early bird or a night owl, although most likely you’re already aware of it, based on how easy it is for you to wake up in the morning. Organising teams and companies in a way that acknowledges these differences, like staggered start times or a flexible working policy, means that employees then perform at their best, without sacrificing their health and wellbeing.”
We can help if you’d like us to:
- Deliver a workshop on how to have more energy, avoiding that mid-afternoon, post-carbohydrate slump, and practical ways to get better quality sleep
- Help you understand whether or not you’re a night owl or early bird through Genetic Testing
- Help you optimise your sleep, reduce your stress, and find more balance in your life via our Sleep Better program