Do you get enough sleep? This is a question I frequently ask of myself, especially since becoming a parent five years ago. If it isn’t children waking in the night, good intentions for an earlier bedtime are often thwarted by a seemingly never-ending list of household chores, life admin and need for a little bit of child-free downtime.
This month, however, marks The Sleep Charity’s annual event, Sleeptember, which, this year, is focused on helping the nation to sleep better, sleep education and encouraging individuals to get to know their sleep.
NHS guidelines recommend that adults should be aiming for between seven and nine hours sleep per night. Yet, according to Nuffield Health’s Healthier nation index, which surveyed 8,000 UK adults, just 36% of respondents said that their sleep was good. Among the remaining group, 11% said they only get between two and four hours sleep per night, while 36% said they sleep between four and six hours per night. Just 8% said they get more than eight hours sleep each night.
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There are myriad reasons for poor sleep; research by Canada Life found approximately a quarter (24%) said this was due to staying up too late, while 21% said this was caused by physical illnesses or conditions and 17% due to poor mental health. The cost-of-living crisis also appears to be impacting sleep quality, with 12% citing a stressful financial situation as a cause.
Poor sleep can be detrimental to many areas of an individual’s life. Canada Life’s research also found that 16% felt they are unable to maintain good physical and mental health due to poor sleep quality, while 15% said the effects of poor sleep have led them to take an average of three days off sick in the past 12 months.
More than a third (37%) of respondents’ to Nuffield Health’s research, meanwhile, said poor sleep impacted their productivity. Mental and emotional wellbeing can also be adversely affected.
While sleep may well be seen as something that is outside of an employer’s care, taking steps to promote and enhance sleep quality among their workforce may have a number of benefits. Incorporating a sleep strategy into health and wellbeing provision could include steps to address the root causes of poor sleep, for example, if this can be attributed to financial concerns or work-related stress. Signposting staff to information on how to improve sleep in general may also be useful.
Sleep will be discussed in more detail at this year’s Employee Benefits Live on 4 October when Dr Amanda Mwale, clinical psychologist at NHS Trust Guys and St Thomas, will present a session titled ‘How promoting better sleep and rest benefits your employees and business’. See more information and register to attend.