In today’s fast-paced world, if your quality sleep is often overlooked or sacrificed due to a busy schedule and demanding lifestyle, you’re not alone. 74% of UK workers report poor sleep hygiene which can result in slower reaction times and difficulty concentrating. Poor sleep also increases the likelihood of accidents and costly mistakes, so it’s no wonder sleep deprivation is believed to cost the UK economy £37 billion a year in lost productivity. All together, this highlights the importance of prioritising your own sleep hygiene and supporting employees to do the same.
The importance of sleep extends beyond the workplace. We sleep to repair and rejuvenate our bodies, which is necessary for our overall wellbeing, which is why consistent poor sleep quality is also linked to physical and mental health problems such as increased risk of a stroke, heart disease and depression. While the NHS recommends 7-9 hours of sleep per night, achieving quality sleep requires more than just getting the recommended number of hours; it involves adopting healthy sleep habits and creating an environment conducive to restful slumber. In honour of Sleeptember (The Sleep Charity’s annual campaign focused on raising awareness of the importance of sleep hygiene), we’re sharing ten expert tips that can help you and your employees attain the rejuvenating sleep your bodies deserve.
Stick to a Consistent Schedule
Your body’s internal clock, also known as the circadian rhythm, plays a vital role in regulating sleep-wake cycles. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day helps synchronise your circadian rhythm, making it easier to fall asleep and wake up feeling refreshed. While sticking to a consistent sleep schedule is ideal, it might not always be feasible for individuals with varying work hours. Aim for a flexible sleep routine by setting a target bedtime and wake-up time within a reasonable range. Keeping the duration of your sleep consistent, helps regulate your circadian rhythm, even if the timing isn’t always exact.
Create a Relaxing Bedtime Routine
Engaging in calming activities before bed can signal your body that it’s time to wind down. Reading a book, taking a warm bath, practising deep breathing, or gentle yoga can help you transition from the day’s activities to a restful state of mind. The OptiMe app provides users with a range of relaxation pick-me-ups which focus on mindfulness and gentle breathing exercises to inspire calm and can also improve sleep.
Optimise Your Sleep Environment
Your sleep environment greatly influences the quality of your sleep. Make sure your bedroom is dark by investing in room-darkening shades or curtains and keep clocks out of view and phones faced down. You could also try wearing an eye mask during sleep. For some, silence is golden for a good night’s sleep, so using earplugs and putting your phone on silent can do wonders for your sleep quality. Investing in a good quality mattress and pillows that provide adequate support can make a significant difference in your sleep comfort also.
As you fall asleep, your body’s core temperature decreases. A cooler sleeping environment allows you to acquire a deeper sleep faster. Cooler environments also encourage the production of melatonin, your body’s sleep hormone which works by activating the sleep-wake cycle alerting your body that it’s time for rest. While ideal sleep temperature may vary from person to person, most experts recommend keeping the room temperature between 15.6C to 20C for the most comfortable sleep.
Limit Exposure to Screens and Bright Light Before Bed
The blue light emitted by screens, such as phones, tablets, and computers, can confuse your body’s internal clock and hinder melatonin production and sleep regulation. Aim to avoid screens at least an hour before bedtime to help your body prepare for sleep, and consider using dimmer, warmer lights in the hours leading up to bedtime. However, if your work hours result in you using screens close to bedtime, consider using blue light filters on your devices, or wearing blue light-blocking glasses during your work shifts. If you’re exposed to bright screens frequently, it’s also important to take frequent breaks to rest your eyes. Follow the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. This simple practice can reduce eye strain which can reduce stress and migraines that can interfere with sleep quality.
Watch Your Diet and Hydration
Avoid heavy meals close to bedtime, as they can lead to discomfort and indigestion. Additionally, limit your intake of caffeine and alcohol, especially in the evening. Both caffeine and alcohol reduce sleep quality by limiting the duration we spend in deep sleep (known as REM sleep). REM sleep is a vital sleep component which contributes to mood regulation, memory and learning. Staying hydrated is important, but try to avoid excessive liquids right before bed to prevent middle-of-the-night bathroom trips.
Get Regular Exercise
Regular physical activity has been found to improve sleep quality by reducing stress and elevating body temperature. When body temperature begins to decrease, this helps to activate the sleep cycle, so aim to finish vigorous workouts a few hours before bedtime for maximum effect. Engaging in calming exercises like gentle stretching or yoga can be more beneficial closer to bedtime to relax our muscles and unwind our mind.
Manage Stress and Anxiety
High levels of stress and anxiety can interfere with falling asleep and staying asleep. Practice stress-reduction techniques such as meditation, muscle relaxation, journaling or general self-care to clear your mind before bedtime. We have also compiled a list of expert tips for company leaders and HR professionals on managing workplace stress which you can access here, as well as tips for reducing stress and avoiding burnout which you can read here.
Be Mindful of Naps
While short power naps can be refreshing, long or irregular naps during the day can disrupt your nighttime sleep. If you feel the need to nap, aim for a nap of around 20-30 minutes in the early afternoon. This keeps you in the lighter stages of sleep, preventing you from the groggy and sluggishness that comes with being woken during deeper stages of sleep.
Seek Professional Help if Necessary
If you find persistent sleep challenges despite implementing these strategies, seeking guidance from your general practitioner is recommended. They can offer personalised solutions and address possible sleep disorders or underlying health issues, including those related to mental health or chronic fatigue.
If you’re looking for a proven and affordable solution to boost your organisation’s health and wellbeing, get in touch with our friendly team at [email protected].