On August 5-11, the Sleep Health Foundation run Sleep Awareness Week to promote a better understanding of the effects of sleep quality on our lives. Sleep quality not only affects our mood and wellbeing, but also affects our performance at work. More organisations are starting to consider and take action to improve the quality of sleep for their employees and combat fatigue.
Mentally healthy workplaces are those that work proactively to prevent physical and mental fatigue. This not only reduces the number of fatigue related accidents, but also improves employee quality of life.
What is the relationship between sleep and good mental health?
Sleep is critical for your brain to consolidate memories and process information. Irregular schedules, stress and intensive mental or physical work can influence the systems that regulate your sleep and wake under normal conditions.
“One of the problems with insufficient sleep is that people are not very good at predicting how poorly they are doing when they are under-slept.” - Dr Matthew Walker, Sleep and Neuroimaging Lab at University of California at Berkeley.
Sleep and mental health are intrinsically related. If you feel stressed or anxious, it can effect your ability to fall asleep and keep you up at night with racing thoughts. If you are limiting your natural sleep schedule, you can feel more irritable, upset and lose focus or motivation. If you are finding it difficult to sleep, these tips may provide some welcome relief and guidance to feeling better.
TIPS TO IMPROVE SLEEP
Image: Anastasia Martyan
Give yourself at least 30 minutes of gadget-free time before bed.
Using cell phones, tablets or computers before bed can affect your sleep in more ways than you might think. We all know that getting distracted before bed can postpone sleep and leave you feeling tired and groggy in the morning. As well as this, scientists have found technology emits blue light that makes it harder for you to both fall and stay asleep due it its effects on melatonin. This light and any interesting information you see might be tricking your brain into staying awake for longer.
Set a sleep schedule where you wake up at the same time every day, including weekends
Your body produces hormones that work like an internal clock, triggering times when you should go to sleep and wake up. It is much better to recognise these natural triggers and use them as a guide to your regular sleep routine. Try to wait for this feeling before going to bed, and not stay awake after you start to feel tired.
Make your bedroom a sleep-only zone! People who work in their bedroom late at night can limit both the length and quality of your sleep
Often it can be tempting to check emails, look on social media or turn on the TV if we are finding it difficult to fall asleep. However, all of these things work like a distraction in the bedroom, and fail to train the brain to associate your bed with a place of rest. Some activities that are more likely to promote rest include having a warm drink or reading quietly before bed.
Exercise daily to make falling asleep easier
One of the most important factors to make falling asleep easier is staying out of bed during the day time. Being outside during the day in natural daylight helps to regulate your body clock and melatonin levels. Try to plan exercise early in the morning or before an evening meal, as it can work against you and be an energiser if done just before trying to fall asleep.
Reduce stress levels by practicing skills like mindfulness, stress management and mindset.
Many people who struggling with sleep may comment that they lie awake at night thinking about things that are troubling them. If this happens to you, it can be helpful to learn relaxation and stress management skills that will prepare you to calm down before bed. You can then develop a routine where you set aside 30 minutes where you may practice mindfulness or breathing exercises to calm your body and mind.
Uprise teaches a range of these skills that improve sleep quality and wellbeing. Book a demo to learn how you can offer these skills to your employees.
The workplace should play a critical role in educating and supporting employees to improve the quality of sleep and manage fatigue. Mental fatigue is particularly difficult to manage in the workplace because it accumulates and dissipates in a way that is much more complex than physical fatigue. Therefore, the most effective management is proactive identification, support and education before fatigue develops.
Offer a proactive employee assistance program that targets fatigue
To prevent mental fatigue, employers can offer a proactive employee assistance program like Uprise that assesses and trains resilience and wellbeing. Uprise is a digital platform that guides employees through specific learning modules on Improving Sleep. In 2018, employees reported an average improvement of 10% in their sleep quality as a result of using the program. Learn more about our outcomes.
Educate your employees
It is important that managers and leaders in organisations open up the conversation with their employees about sleep quality and its effect of mental wellbeing. Employees should get 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Anything less than 6 hours of sleep will double the risk of a fatigue-related accident. Encourage your employees to talk about any personal or work-related issues that are inhibiting their sleep.
Train managers to identify fatigue
Managers are often in closest contact with those in their team and so should have some responsibility in assessing their alertness and concentration. Managers can be trained to identify a range of emotional, physical and behavioural signs that pose a fatigue hazard in the workplace. This includes things like lacking motivation, social withdrawal or the inability to meet work commitments. A regular check-in with your employees should involve a consultation on the impact of their workload and work schedule on their life and energy levels.