A new survey of 8,000 UK adults has highlighted that nearly three-quarters of its respondents are reporting a decline in quality sleep compared to last year. This is especially concerning given that Nuffield Health’s 2022, ‘Healthier Nation Index‘, also revealed that 1 in 10 people are only getting between 2-4 hours of sleep per night.
According to Nuffield Health’s research, 35–44-year-olds get the least sleep, with almost 50% only getting 5-6 hours per night. Only 33% get the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep per night. These findings are especially pertinent during ‘World Sleep Day‘, which focuses on promoting better sleep quality.
Sleep deprivation is believed to cost the UK economy £37 billion a year in lost productivity, with poor sleepers having reduced reaction times and trouble concentrating. They also have an increased likelihood of having accidents or making costly mistakes, highlighting both a need and an opportunity to provide people with sleep hygiene support in UK workplaces.
Ultimately, chronically disrupted sleep increases the risk of work absence by 171 percent. However, just over half of people don’t believe quality sleep builds immunity.
Gosia Bowling, National Lead for Emotional Wellbeing at Nuffield Health commented on the findings:
Many businesses have adopted a ‘hybrid’ approach to working and it’s important to note this ‘new normal’ won’t automatically facilitate perfect sleeping patterns. That’s why it’s crucial employers ‘wake up to sleep’ and work with their healthcare providers to support their workforce.
Taking a holistic view on health – including offering interventions that cover the full range of risks – is the only way to get back to maximum wellbeing and create a healthier nation.
Gosia Bowling, National Lead for Emotional Wellbeing at Nuffield Health
Gosia offers advice on how employers can play their part in creating holistic health interventions to enhance sleep quality among its workforces:
#1 Outline expectations
Businesses tend to overvalue individuals who undervalue sleep. However, for those looking to maximise employee potential and nurture a positive, productive workforce, it’s important to reduce the business and health risks of sleep deprivation.
Employers should outline their expectations from the outset. This means defining working hours and letting employees know they aren’t expected to reply to emails outside of them. Employees should also be encouraged to work around their natural sleep patterns where possible, for example, avoiding scheduling early-morning or late-evening calls.
#2 Train for triggers
Just as important as it is to lead a company with a sleep-positive attitude, it is essential managers can spot the signs of a sleep-deprived co-worker in their teams.
For example, are mood swings, poor attention, or distraction common among certain team members? Are they yawning and drinking copious amounts of coffee to get through the day? These can all be signs of a poor night’s sleep.
#3 Promote physical health
It is also important to emphasise the benefits of exercise in regulating sleep patterns, just not right before bed, as we remain in an ‘activated’ mode for a while after exercising, making it difficult to sleep.
Instead, an outdoor run or power walk during lunch hours not only gets employees away from their desks but also exposes them to natural daylight, promoting healthy sleep hormones.
#4 Offer specialist support
The relationship between mental health and sleep isn’t entirely understood but according to neurochemistry studies, an adequate night’s sleep helps enhance mental and emotional resilience equally.
Where signs of emotional difficulty are identified, employers should signpost individuals towards the relevant emotional wellbeing support available to them. This may include offering cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) which provide individuals with direct access to specialists.
Joanne is the editor for Workplace Wellbeing Professional and has a keen interest in promoting the safety and wellbeing of the global workforce. After earning a bachelor's degree in English literature and media studies, she taught English in China and Vietnam for two years. Before joining Work Well Pro, Joanne worked as a marketing coordinator for luxury property, where her responsibilities included blog writing, photography, and video creation.