Figures like these not only point to the impact of poor sleep, but also to its prevalence. More than 50% of 30,000 employees surveyed at five U.S. corporations said they did not receive adequate sleep. In India, more than one in five people aged 18-64 worry more about tiredness than high blood pressure or diabetes, while over a third of UK adults say they do not get enough sleep. The failure to properly rest – a time when the body is actually very busy renewing and repairing itself – is clearly a global phenomenon. However, the causes of the problem are as varied as its effects – from financial worries and mental health issues to more physical triggers such as poor diet, smoking, late meals, or late exposure to TV and computer screens. Some of the causes may be work-related, such as stress, the physical impact of irregular shifts, or the hassle of commuting. In short, sleep can be affected by events both during and outside working hours. And although we all need our nightly dose, our sleep patterns vary from one individual to another. So how can companies help their employees to get better sleep – so that everyone benefits? Better conditions, more flexibility
The options fall into a number of categories. A wellness program that encourages fitness through gym memberships, along with massage or yoga sessions, can be a real benefit. With the rise of wearable technology, which could be offered as part of a benefits and rewards scheme, it is now possible for people to monitor the quality and duration of their sleep. And by being better informed, people can make better lifestyle choices. At the same time, employers can also make a positive contribution. A 2013 study by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that workers who were more exposed to natural light slept better than those with harsh, artificial lighting. Where the amount of natural light cannot be increased, employers could install lighting that is easier on the eyes. Flexibility over working patterns, and opportunities to work from home, can also make a difference. Sleep is certainly a precious commodity in today’s busy work environment, and anything that can help employees feel more rested when they arrive for work is good news – both for them and their employers. Taking a closer look at the workplace itself, and looking for ways to improve sleep through the company’s rewards strategy, will all pay dividends.