Harry Bliss, Director of Champion Health, discusses the dangers of sleep deprivation to travelling staff and presents the WHEELS framework to help improve sleep.
The highest volume of global heart attacks and car accidents occur on the same day, each year, every year. Specifically, they occur on the final Sunday in March when the clocks spring forward into daylight saving time. Scientists have studied this phenomenon in-depth and have concluded that there is a specific human behaviour behind this. Sleep. A lack of sleep, to be more precise.
Losing just 60-minutes of shut-eye is detrimental to our health; raising the risk of suffering a heart attack or even experiencing a road traffic accident. Sleep loss places such stress on our cardiovascular system that it will accelerate heart rate and elevate blood pressure to dangerous levels. Studies have evidenced that those of us regular sleeping 6-hours or less are over 400% more likely to suffer heart attacks in their lifetime.
Our brain function stalls with even the smallest amount of sleep deprivation and leads to momentary attention lapses called microsleeps. These occur commonly amongst those who sleep only six-hours or less. These microsleeps occur when we drive. We lose our ability to react, control steering and operate brake pedals. Road traffic collision risks rocket by 168% when fatigued behind the wheel. In the US, there are 1.2million annual road accidents attributed to sleepiness; more than the combined total for those found to be associated with drug and alcohol use.
Optimising the Sleep of The Workforce
Raising awareness of sleep across the workforce is a critical step towards helping:
- Reduce fatigue
- Improve safety
- Enhance performance
- Promote wellbeing
Sleep is a very personal behaviour with our habits and routines occurring unconsciously. As employers, it is not your responsibility to enforce or insist upon employees making changes to their sleep behaviour. However, it is certainly within the best interest of the company to facilitate and support employees to pursue positive changes to lifestyle health.
The Business Case:
1-2 nights of poor sleep per week increases the risk of absence by 171%, when compared to ‘optimal sleepers’.
Employees who sleep poorly directly cost employers £2,160 p/yr in fatigue-related productivity losses.
Although you cannot force your team to sleep well, you can facilitate it. Feel free to use The WHEELS Framework™ to support you in this process and keep employees safe on the roads.
- Wind down: This is a critical stage for preparing for bed. A warm bath or shower before bed can help the body relax and improve your sleep quality. Reading, listening to music or performing mindfulness activities can help build effective wind-down routines.
- Hydration: When fluids are consumed, and the type of fluids chose is extremely important for optimal sleep.
- Caffeine temporarily blocks signals that start the sleep process and remains in the system for a while. Reducing caffeinated beverages and avoiding them beyond 2pm is highly recommended.
- Alcohol before bedtime leads to symptoms of sleep apnoea, snoring and disrupted sleep patterns. Drinking any fluids to close to bedtime can break the natural sleep cycle. Try and limit all fluid consumption to 1-2 hours before your bedtime to avoid waking during the night.
- Environment: Bedroom environments are a crucial component of sleep. Bedrooms should be quiet, relaxing, and clean. The temperature of the room is also extremely important; temperatures of 19-20 degrees-Celsius are recommended and can be complemented by seasonally appropriate bedding.
- Exercise: Being physically active is one of the best science-backed ways to improve sleep. Regular exercise during daylight hours is one of the most effective ways to help set up a good night’s sleep. Explore ways to integrate exercise into daily routines and around current commitments.
- Light: Access to natural light during daylight hours helps regulate the natural circadian rhythm of the body. Ensure your workday routine allows access to natural light and time outdoors. In contrast, night-time light exposure confuses the brain into thinking it is still daytime. This makes it harder for to relax and get to sleep. Consider reducing digital device use during the evenings and adjusting device settings such as night shift mode to filter and reduce blue light exposure.
- Sleeping Pattern: Developing the habit of waking up and going to bed at similar times every day (including weekends) is highly advantageous. Irregular sleep patterns lead to poorer long term sleep quality.
Get in touch with Cardinus to see how we can help improve the wellbeing of your workforce.
SourcesMatthew Walker (2017). Why We Sleep. The New Science of Sleep and Dreams. Penguin Books  Azor & Grandner (2015) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4610176/  Rosekind et al (2010). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20042880.