In Leadership Competencies

On this month’s journey of the employee experience, we’ve identified and covered the Dangers of Multitasking, Benefits of “Unplugging”, and Importance of Nutrition and Exercise as ways to positively influence the mental well-being of yourself and your employees. Now, we’ve arrived at possibly the most important topic in this series. The most fundamental aspect of general well-being is sleep.

What exactly is sleep?

You most likely learned about it in High School biology, but a refresher never hurts! According to the American Sleep Association, sleep is a dynamic activity consisting of 4 stages and REM (rapid eye movement).

  • Stage 1 – light sleep, one can be easily awakened and muscle activity begins to slow
  • Stage 2 – eye movements stop and brain waves become slower
  • Stage 3 – deep sleep, brain waves are extremely slow with occasional bursts of smaller, faster waves
  • Stage 4 – deep sleep, brain waves are slow, no eye movement or muscle activity; it is very difficult to wake individuals in this stage and those woken up usually feel groggy and can take several minutes to adjust.
  • REM – dreams, breathing becomes rapid and irregular, eyes move rapidly in varying directions, heart rate and blood pressure rise

Why is sleep so important?

Sleep deprivation is a serious issue. According the CDC, more than one third of American adults are not sleeping enough on a regular basis (7+ hours per day)! Some reasons include, drinking caffeine, exercising or doing mentally intensive activities close to bedtime. Others include, temperature (too hot or cold), noise, light, bed comfort, and interruptions (from family or a restless partner). When people don’t prioritize resting, it can have serious consequences… consequences beyond irritability.

Sleep deprivation can affect your brain functioning, emotional wellbeing, physical health, and daytime performance and safety. Individuals who suffer from sleep deprivation can experience reduced ability to learn, creativity, decision making capabilities, and control of emotions and behavior. Other impacts can include, depression, increased risk of heart and kidney disease, high blood pressure, obesity, changes to your immune system, reduced muscle repair, reduced productivity, increased mistakes, and microsleep (unintended episodes of loss of attention).

The impact of sleep deprivation

In business terms, sleep deprivation is thought to be responsible for at least $63 billion worth of lost productivity in the U.S. every year. It has also played a role in a wide variety of accidents in the workplace. An average of 29% of workers report falling asleep or becoming very sleepy at work. It’s an issue that is certainly worth your attention.

What you can do about it

Employers across industries have recognized this issue and are working to decrease sleep deprivation within their workforces. In the 1990s NASA experimented by introducing short naps into astronauts’ days. They found performance increased. As a result, today it’s not uncommon for pilots and crew on intercontinental flights to take a “NASA nap”. In the business world, some firms are tackling the problem by providing nap areas in the offices. However, your approach can be much simpler.

First and foremost, educate. In your efforts to transform your employee experience to promote mental well-being, make sleep education a priority. Coupled with this, you can also enable flexible schedules. Often, an hour difference (for example, coming in at 10:00 versus 9:00) can have a substantial impact on productivity. Whatever your approach, it is important to remember that sleep is personal and it’s not possible to force anyone to improve their sleep habits. Therefore, it is essential to empower your employees with the appropriate knowledge and options to make improvements.

If you’ve been thinking about educating your employees about the importance of good sleeping habits or other ideas to promote good health  and want some tips, give me a call


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