Power suits to power naps. Why sleep makes business sense.
Like many others, I recently read ‘Why we Sleep’ by Matthew Walker. He never really gets to a definitive answer, other than ‘we don’t really know’. But the effects of not getting enough are irrefutable, and frankly, terrifying.
If you drive, having been awake for 19 or 20 hours - that’s getting up at 6am and driving home at 1am - you are so impaired that you would be as deficient as someone who was legally drunk.
The World Health Organization decided to classify any form of nighttime shift work as a probable carcinogen because the link between lack of sleep and cancer is now so strong.
But let’s focus on the positive aspect of having this knowledge. According to Walker, getting enough quality sleep - that’s between 7-8 hours a night - will make you cleverer, more attractive, slimmer, happier, more fertile and healthier. Sounds good to me.
Other benefits of adequate sleep are increased creativity, collaboration and focus. All things that we value in our working lives and within our teams.
And yet quality of sleep, or the opportunity to do so during the day, are very rarely supported or provided for in the workplace. The expectation is that we’re ‘always on’ and looking at screens after hours. Late working hours (and long commutes). Stress. Drinking culture. None of these will help you sleep well. Only getting 6 hours of sleep every night is seen as something to brag about, not something that could kill you!
Seems crazy to me. And doesn't make business sense either.
So what can we do? Your Googles and Facebooks are - as usual - way ahead on this one. They have sleep pods for afternoon naps. At CreateFuture we have shorter core hours so the team can shift their day to suit their circadian rhythm and we’re creating spaces that are nap-friendly. 20 - 30 mins work best around 2pm. I’ll let you know how all of that goes.
If you’d like to know more about how to get a good night’s sleep then I would recommend buying Matthew Walker’s book (or audiobook if you’re like me!) which is published by our friends at Penguin Random House. The Sleep Revolution, with more of a business focus, is also worth checking out.
But if you only try a few things, the consensus seems to be:
Regularity - Get up and go to bed at the same time every day, even at the weekend. Apparently, this is the single most impactful thing you can do to help your sleep quality. You can’t regain lost sleep and weekend late nights / long lies play havoc with your cycle and effectively give you jet lag!
Light and Dark - Keep your bedroom dark at night and avoid screens after dusk. The blue light messes with your melatonin levels which is the chemical that tells your body to go to sleep. Equally, make sure you’re getting plenty of daylight during the day. So get outside, even it’s just ten minutes at lunchtime.
Temperature - Make your room 18.5 degrees. This will feel pretty cold (I shiver at anything under 22 degrees….) but it will send signals to your brain that it’s sleep time as your core body temperature needs to drop to get to sleep and stay there.
Caffeine and alcohol - Avoid both. At least after lunchtime. Alcohol might help you get to sleep - and you might even think you’ve had a good night’s sleep - but you haven’t. The alcohol affects the quality of your REM or dream sleep which affects everything from memory to mood. Same goes for caffeine, which can result in an unhealthy coffee cycle.
Get up - If you’re awake, get up. Even if it’s 3am. Your body needs to associate bed with sleep so if you regularly lie awake it forms a bad habit. Read, meditate (no screens!) until you feel sleepy and try again.
Let me know how you get on. Good luck and sweet dreams!
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