An occupational health approach to sleep strategies

Lack of sleep costs the UK economy c.£40.3 billion every year due to loss of productivity in the workplace - from persistent lateness to work, falling asleep at work, accidents and injuries.

Caroline Pearson, Divisional Customer Services Director

26 Mar 2020

To support optimal health, people aged 18-65 need on average between seven and nine hours sleep per day. Sleep forms part of a natural rhythm of life - a single cell taken from our body and placed in isolation in a laboratory dish will maintain a stable 24-hour pattern, demonstrating that sleep is a force to be harnessed rather than challenged. Indeed, opposing or disrupting sleep and this rhythm of life can be quite harmful.

After about 17 hours of not sleeping, our alertness sharply declines, and after 24 hours is equivalent to a blood alcohol concentration of 0.1%. (The legal driving limit is 0.08% in England and Wales).1 Persistent sleep deprivation is also linked to physical health conditions, including weight gain and ageing, and is indicative of cardiac and respiratory disorders.

It’s therefore important to recognise sleep as an unmet public need. A report from the Royal Society of Public Health2 has cited that people most likely to be affected are those that work:

  • in a shift pattern, e.g. manufacturing, transport industry
  • in a 24/7 sector with continuous service provision pattern, e.g. Healthcare, public services
  • globally across different time zones, e.g. call centres
  • as safety critical workers, e.g. construction industry

Furthermore, individuals working in the gig economy are also noted to be at risk of sleep deprivation which often goes unnoticed especially if they are working for more than one contractor.

Promoting good sleep habits demonstrates a commitment to your employee’s wellbeing and also demonstrates social responsibility, allowing co-workers to encourage each other in adopting healthy behaviours. The workplace is an ideal environment to implement strategies to enable employees to access effective sleep strategies. This can be done by bespoke individual consultations and planning rota’s and shift patterns that minimise sleep pattern disruption.

RPS is a SEQOHS5accredited organisation and will work with you to develop a tailored programme of sleep strategies at an individual and workforce level. The assessments can be conducted on an individual and/or group level basis, based on proactive education events or structured wellbeing programmes to suit your company needs. These are delivered by our experienced Occupational Health physicians and Wellbeing Advisors.

 

  1. https://oem.bmj.com/content/57/10/649
  2. https://www.rsph.org.uk/uploads/assets/uploaded/50220c8f-febb-416e-8f3f7a4d2f973897.pdf
  3. SEQOHS - https://www.seqohs.org/

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