Rarely does something crush our mood and performance so reliably like a night of poor sleep. We were curious to understand more about sleep, what we can all do to overcome sleep problems and how companies can support their employees in combating insomnia.
To get clarity on these important questions we spoke with renowned sleep expert and therapist Dr. Katharina Lederle, author of the book Sleep Sense, in our June interview.
We hope you enjoy the read and a good night of sleep!
1. What happens in our bodies when we sleep?
Sleep is a naturally occurring state that alternates with being awake. Typically, we spend one-third of the 24-hour day asleep and two- thirds awake, fully conscious of what’s going on around us. Sleep is a shift in consciousness. It’s a time when we ‘switch off’ from the world around us and become less responsive to it. However, that doesn’t mean our brain and body are doing nothing while we sleep.
During sleep many diverse physiological changes take place! It allows both our brain and body to replenish and restore. Sleep consolidates memory, facilitates creativity and innovative thinking, and strengthening the immune system for example. It also helps us to process and balance our emotions. In a nutshell, sleep is what gets us ready for the next day enabling us to be the best we can be – physically, mentally and emotionally. Lack of sleep, by contrast, has detrimental effects on many areas such as our physical health, cognitive abilities like memory and alertness, and emotional wellbeing.
How much sleep and when we sleep is a personal matter. There is no one-size fits all approach to sleep. Some people need more, some need less sleep. The general recommendation for adults is to sleep between 7 to 9 hours (only few people need 5 hours or less). The timing of your sleep depends on your body clock. You might be a lark and go to bed early or you might be an owl who prefers to go to sleep late at night. Sleeping according to your personal internal clock has real health benefits. It helps keep all other behavioural, psychological and physiological processes in your body in sync with each other.
Listen to your body and pay attention to how you feel during the day – do you wake up feeling refreshed, do you reach for the coffee again and again throughout the day, do you struggle to concentrate and want to be left alone? All these could be down to too little sleep. Extend your sleep window and see if things change.
2. In stressful periods people oftentimes compromise on sleep and prioritise the nearing deadline at work. What do we have to consider in these times and what are some of the risks of long-term sleep deprivation?
Both short-term and long-term sleep loss have a negative effect on us. After being awake for 17 hours our performance is impaired in a way that is equivalent to having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05%. That’s the legal drink-driving limit in most European countries! So insufficient or poor sleep can have a detrimental impact on our performance by reducing our alertness, attention to detail and decision-making for example. But our moral awareness is also impacted upon by poor sleep, with further implications for decision-making and noticing unethical behaviours in ourselves and others.
Short sleep can lead to weight gain; it affects your eating habits and diet. In the long-term, this can lead to diabetes and obesity, which are risk factors for cardiovascular diseases.
Sleep allows the brain to be cleansed and lack of adequate sleep might be an additional risk factor for dementia. Finally, sleep helps you to look healthy and attractive. Research has shown that people are less willing to interact with those who are looking tired (which is similar to looking ill, and humans like other animals are disease-avoidant) which could have implications for team work as well as those in client facing roles.
3. Which steps can companies take to reduce the risk of sleep problems for their employees?
Educate your workforce! Sleep workshops integrated in a wider health and wellbeing campaign can serve to provide employees with the knowledge and understanding of why sleep is so important and how to optimise their sleep.
Employers also need to create a sleep-friendly work culture for example by encouraging employees to take breaks during the day, considering workload and supporting psychological detachment from work.
4. What are some of the most common reasons for sleep problems and insomnia?
Stress or stressful events. What exactly a stressful event is differs between people but work stress often plays a role here. People struggle to detach from work when at home and continue to think about what they have on making falling asleep or staying asleep more difficult.
5. What are your top three tips to overcome sleep problems?
Learn how to helpfully respond to stress.
Healthy sleep habits such as spending time outdoors or reducing caffeine consumption.
Sleeping during your personal sleep window.
You would like to offer a sleep workshop or a one-to-one sleep coaching for your employees? At Passion And Fruit we are happy to support you in your wellbeing mission.
Email us on email@example.com to find out more about our sleep offering.
#corporatewellbeing #sleep #sleepcoaching #sleepworkshop