Nightmarish Cost of Sleep Deprivation to Workplace Productivity Revealed

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Sleep Deprivation Costing Australian Businesses Billions

In 2017, Deloitte’s Access Economics study discovered that sleep deprivation impacts 39.8 percent of Australians, equating to shocking productivity losses of $17.9 billion.

“We’ve become an ‘always-on’ society and while it may seem like a win for businesses, what they gain in hours is lost in efficiency”, says Marcela Slepica, Clinical Director at AccessEAP.

“Keeping our phones and laptops within arm’s reach at all times to work at any given time has a significant impact on our mental and physical health. In this fast-paced environment, something has to give, and for many it’s sleep. We are in a dangerous cycle of not getting all of the work done because we’re sleep deprived, and not sleeping because we’re not getting all of the work done.”

A lack of sleep has a range of negative effects, including forgetfulness, fuzzy thinking, and trouble concentrating. The result is that people who report to almost always feel tired at work are 4.4 times less productive than those who rarely feel tired. [1]

Insufficient sleep can also have far greater consequences. While an extreme lack of sleep can induce serious psychological effects such as paranoia and memory loss, more subtle consequences such as anger and impatience can have a significant impact on a working environment. Teamwork and cooperation play an essential role in a business success, so when short tempers flare, relationships between colleagues become strained. With 84 percent of people saying they feel more irritable after a night of less sleep [2], its a problem that can’t be ignored. This is especially the case in businesses where shift work is common, or employees are on call.

While an employee’s sleeping habits are ultimately the responsibility of the employee, there are steps facility managers can take to help ensure staff are well rested and working to their full potential, says Slepica.

“Try to make sure that staff are exposed to natural light. This activates the circadian rhythm, the natural 24-hour cycle that regulates our sleep/wake cycle, and keeps our internal body clock in balance ensuring that we are ready for sleep at night. Disrupting the circadian rhythm has direct links to health problems such as obesity and diabetes. Lack of natural sunlight can also lead to depression, especially in the winter months.”

Other tips include:

  • Regular sleep patterns. Establishing a sleep routine or ritual is about what you do leading up to a set bedtime, and also having a set wake up time.
  • A warm bath or shower before bed can trick the body into relaxing by loosening the muscles.
  • For optimum ability to fall asleep, your bedroom should be dark and comfortable with moderate to cool temperature and, importantly, free of electronic devices.
  • A helpful approach for a busy mind is to write notes/lists before bedtime, to help calm the mind. Listening to soft music can assist with calming.
  • Do not allow yourself to ‘thrash around’ for more than 15-20 minutes before getting up. There are many apps available to help.
  • Spicy food, alcohol, caffeine, and exercising just before bed all have a detrimental effect on sleep.
  • Muscle spasms or cramps can keep people awake; magnesium may help to alleviate symptoms. Incorporate pulses, nuts, spinach and potatoes into your diet to make sure you’re reaching the recommended levels.
  • If you regularly wake up during the night, and have difficulty falling back to sleep, it may be helpful to get up, drink some water or a soothing camomile tea, sit and gaze at the stars or quietly breathe, rather than lying in bed tense and frustrated. Once you are feeling soothed and settled, return to bed.
  • Meditation and deep breathing can be helpful before sleeping to still the mind.

It is recommended that individuals who cannot sleep despite following these tips see a GP.

[1] American Journal of Health Promotion 2018
[2] Hult International Business School 2016


Image: 123RF’s Thananit Suntiviriyanon ©

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