How much sleep do I really need?

Claire Vane
March 7, 2017

Rand Europe produced a report towards the end of 2016 about sleep deprivation which is costing the UK economy about £40 billion per annum.

The report used data involving 62,000 people and the loss is equivalent to 1.86 economic growth. This is all very well but what on earth are we going to do about it? With the onset of the increased use of CCTV cameras and mobile data, from time-to-time, we’ve come across clients where an individual has been caught asleep during the working day. 

Falling asleep in the workplace

When I was in the manufacturing industry with continuous/non-continuous shift systems, stomach issues and sleep issues were a common problem as the body could not regulate easily to the lack of continuity caused by shift systems.

Falling asleep in the workplace might once have been regarded as gross misconduct - theft of company time. But is it really this simple? Is it really a performance issue and what might be the circumstances surrounding falling sleep while at work?

There is also an element of macho which still permeates the corporate world. It is regarded as a plus if you don’t need much sleep. Certainly there are those individuals who don't need much sleep, and Margaret Thatcher is always held up as one who did not need much sleep, and it is very fortunate if you are one of those that fall into that small category. However, if you do need sleep and you don’t get it, the consequences are shocking.

The sleep reality

Teenagers need sleep to grow and there are special schools who have changed their hours completely with huge results in productivity by starting the school day later and playing to the student’s natural biorhythms. The son of one of my friends who didn’t have a gap year and who is now moving into management consultancy, said that he dreaded the idea of insufficient holidays and not enough sleep. It seems that in a so called 'high-powered' world, there is almost an expectation that lack of sleep goes with the territory and is a requirement. It is time we turned things on its head.

My mother used to say to me: ‘if you think you’re tired, what do you think I am?’ So I grew up with the attitude that tiredness is not something we should admit to.

Now, however, the whole area of sleep is taking a higher place on the corporate agenda. One leading management consultancy has recently included the importance of sleep in part of a training programme on resilience and the course is now open to all its UK staff.

So, what are we going to do about it?

Well, certainly, it is very important that sleep is not regarded as something that only wimps do. With the increasing use of technology, there are certain habits that need to be instilled into every day life so that the technology doesn’t exacerbate the problem. Raising the profile of mental health and the effect that sufficient sleep has on improving this and the importance of sleep in reducing and coping with depression, certainly helps with sleep being an agenda item on the corporate stage.

Raising the profile of sleep

The first thing is to ensure that sleep is raised as an issue or an agenda item within organisations. It is going to change our mental health. Another possibility is to include measurement of performance and talk about output rather than input, i.e. the number of hours spent working. Sleep, too, can come on the diversity agenda; it takes all sorts and all sorts of people need different amounts of sleep.

Certainly, using the disciplinary procedure for theft of company time through lack of sleep is not the appropriate answer, and a re-education and acceptance that it is something that we all need, could have a positive effect on the whole working culture and go some way to saving some money of the £40 billion per annum that sleep deprivation is currently costing the UK.

The team of experts at Integrated Resources can help your business address sleep or wider performance and wellbeing issues. Please don't hesitate to get in touch to see what we can do.

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Claire Vane

Claire is the Managing Director and Founder of Integrated Resources. She is passionate about releasing potential in individuals and organisations.

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