Sleep is of utmost importance for the overall well-being of our body and mind. The benefits and advantages of sleep are well known and documented. However, a large section of the people do not get good sleep due to various reasons, work being one of the primary factors. Academic studies, research papers and non-academic reports have spoken in length about the connection between work stress, work pressure and impaired sleep. Study by Karl-Heinz Ladwig (Professor at the German Research Centre for Environmental Health and the Medical Faculty) has defined work stress as jobs with high pressure and low control and impaired sleep as difficulties falling asleep and /or maintaining sleep while maintaining sleep seems to be the most common problem in people with stressful jobs. According to Karl-Heinz Ladwig, “Sleep should be a time for recreation, unwinding, and restoring energy levels. If you have stress at work, sleep helps you recover. Unfortunately poor sleep and job stress often go hand in hand, and when combined with hypertension the effect is even more toxic”.
The science of sleep is very simple, sleep helps our body restore and rejuvenate the resources that were depleted over the course of the day. Therefore poor sleep hampers the rejuvenation process and we are left with inadequate physical, cognitive, emotional and psychological resources to deal with the next day which further causes disruption in our personal and professional lives.
The question is why do we think that sleep is something we can easily compromise upon, while prioritizing other works at all times?
Impact of Sleep Deprivation in the workplace
There are countless studies and reports that have shown how inadequate sleep leads to the decline of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Physical and mental problems such as hypertension, depression, anxiety, obesity, heart burn, palpitations, diabetes, physical discomfort, ulcers, heart problems, and daytime fatigue are commonly seen in individuals with poor sleep habits. There are quite a few cases of employees of big organizations having suffered immensely due to poor sleep quality/quantity, and in some instances, it has even proven to be fatal. At this rate, it would not be surprising to see Indian workers following the practice of ‘inemuri’ (the Japanese norm of sleeping at work); worse still, it could lead to ‘karoshi’ (the Japanese term for death due to over-work).
Studies have shown that inadequate sleep leads to several problems at the work front, i.e., poor concentration, increased errors, shorter attention span, lack of focus, higher irritability, a longer time for simple work, unethical behavior and missing work. According to a study published in the journal of ‘Occup Environ Med’, Moderate sleep deprivation produces impairments in cognitive and motor performance equivalent to legally prescribed levels of alcohol intoxication. Some highly cited studies have shown how the Three Mile Island nuclear meltdown, the Chernobyl nuclear explosion, the space shuttle challenger explosion and the Exxon Valdez oil spill were all the result of human error possibly caused by sleepiness. This proves that poor sleep can literally be deadly.
Status of Sleep in India
According to a study mentioned in The Statesman (2019) 51 percent people in India go to sleep between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m.; 16 percent of people believe they have insomnia; 48 percent of people complain of back problems; 80 percent feel sleepy at work for 1-3 days a week. These figures form part of a survey on sleeping habits, conducted by a sleep solutions start-up, Wakefit.co, across the country, called the Great Indian Sleep Scorecard 2019. The study was conducted in the metro cities, including Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, and Bengaluru.
A recent study conducted by Godrej Interio in 2018 revealed that over 93 percent of Indians are sleep-deprived and sleeping post 10 p.m. is seen to affect individuals sleep pattern, leading to sleep deprivation. Godrej Interio launched the ‘sleep@10’ campaign last year that focuses on addressing the concern over sleep deprivation in India. One of the interesting findings of the study was that Mumbai topped the list among the sleep-deprived cities in the country.
The thought that less sleep equals more work is grossly misleading. Employees will not be able to achieve their optimal performance level if they haven’t got enough rest the previous night, in fact their performance would eventually decline if they continue to sleep poorly, and it is simply the Science of Sleep!
Let us not wear our limited sleep time as a ‘badge of honor’ to prove our commitment and dedication towards our work because it does nothing more than weaken the existing performance or the potential performance of the employee. It has disturbing repercussions not just for the health and productivity levels of the employees but also for the eventual profitability of the organization. Numerous studies have shown how organizations have lost huge sum of money on employees’ health and increased sick leaves.
A few measures that could be taken by the organizations are:
- Ensuring employees strictly adhere to the office timings.
- No Emails/messages/calls post office hours.
- Genuinely encouraging paid time off.
- Strict Enforcement of ‘Don’t come to work if sick’ policy.
- Have designated rest areas (sleep pods) at office.
- Encouraging them to install sleep apps to have a better idea of their sleep schedule.
Hence, it would be safe to say that if you want yourself and your employees to be happy, engaged, and productive at work, then sleep and let them sleep too. It is high time organizations understand that Sleep is a Necessity and not a Luxury!
- Stressed at work and trouble sleeping? It's more serious than you think
- Moderate sleep deprivation produces impairments in cognitive and motor performance equivalent to legally prescribed levels of alcohol intoxication: A M Williamson, Anne-Marie Feyer
- Sleep Scorecard 2019: Many people in India not sleeping well, are you?
- Studies Show Sleep Deprivation Performance Is Similar to Being Under the Influence of Alcohol
- Is staff sickness hurting your business?
- #SleepJasoos:Godrej Interio's new study reveals India's sleeping patterns
- Should offices be giving employees the time and space to sleep at work?
- Catastrophes, Sleep, and Public Policy: Consensus Report