Many workers affected by poor sleep

Importance of good sleep taken for granted
  • Deborah Condon

Half of people working in corporate jobs in Ireland do not feel that they are getting proper sleep, with one in five admitting they are affected by poor sleep nightly or almost nightly, a new report has found.

The report, Restless Mind: The Impact of Poor Sleep on Employees, found that just 13% of corporate employees feel they have a good night's sleep every night or almost every night.

Some 20% are affected by poor sleep every night or almost every night, while 28% said that worry interrupts their sleep at least once a week.

The VHI Health Insights report also looked at the consequences of poor sleep, which ranged from feeling tired in work to potentially dangerous situations, such as falling asleep while driving.

It found that 71% of employees are tired in work at least several times a month, with 17% admitted to making mistakes in work at least several times a month as a result of poor sleep.

A further 40% admitted to having been irritable with family members at least several times a month, while 48% had no energy for household jobs when they came home from home as a result of poor sleep.

"Sleep is fundamental to our health and wellbeing, yet we often take it for granted. We need sleep in order for our bodies to function properly, including brain development and body restoration. If we don't get enough sleep, there can be physical and emotional side-effects.

"The challenge in spreading awareness of the benefits of sleep is that it is less visible than other health initiatives we can undertake. Physical exercise, for instance, is a much more public activity," commented Dr David Morris, head of wellness at VHI.

He pointed out that changes that might improve sleep can be difficult to stick to ‘as they impact on what we perceive as our lifestyle'.

"For instance, the only time some people feel they have ‘me time' is when they are in bed, so that's when they use their phone. The reality is that we have a whole host of different prompts for people to encourage good behaviours around nutrition and physical activity, and virtually nothing to encourage positive behaviours around sleep," Dr Morris said.

The Vhi Health Insights expert group suggest the following 10 tips to improve sleep:
1. Recognise that sleep is a crucial part of our wellbeing. When that reality is accepted, it is then possible to implement some simple steps to create an environment more conducive to a good night's sleep
2. Set an alarm for going to bed - a reverse snooze button. It ensures we know we need to be asleep half an hour before we fall asleep
3. Stick to consistent sleep/wake times during weekdays and weekends. This allows us to get through the natural sleep phases more readily in the overnight period
4. Understand the role of the immediate environment in facilitating sleep. Boundaries must be set to ensure that the bedroom is a place where we sleep and everything around it should be planned to protect that space for sleep
5. Ensure the bedroom is dark, cool and devoid of distractions
6. Exclude screens for the last few hours before bedtime
7. Relaxation is important to improve sleep. Try simple relaxation techniques if you wake in the night and avoid looking at your phone or clock
8. Use light to help maintain wakefulness early in the day. Morning light advances our body clock to get up earlier. Evening light delays the clock and makes you get up later
9. Learn about the value of sleep. For those with very poor sleep, education alone can improve patterns of sleep
10. When making any adjustment to your sleep, take only small steps at a time.


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