Dr Stuart Quan is the McGinnis Professor of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School and expert consultant for our sleep module. Here, Dr Quan goes on the record about sleep health and workplace performance.
Eight, six, ten – how many hours’ sleep do we really need?
For adults, it’s recommended to get at least seven hours. More is recommended for infants, children and adolescents.
Why is what happens in employees’ bedrooms an issue for business?
There are a few reasons:
- First, because sleep deficiency decreases productivity. It increases absenteeism and presenteeism – the phenomenon where employees are present on the job, but less efficient. That happens because sleeplessness impacts, among other things, motivation, mood and concentration.
- Workplace safety is also an issue. In some occupations, lack of sleep can increase the likelihood of accidents, involving the sleepless employees themselves, or others. The healthcare sector comes to mind here.
- Finally, there’s the employee’s individual health to consider: sleep deficiency increases the risk of hypertension, heart disease and diabetes.
All of these things can be improved with better sleep.
How can employers promote healthy habits around something as private as sleep?
In many ways. Businesses can promote sleep by:
- Scheduling work hours that are more sleep friendly
- Promoting a culture where sleep is valued and long hours, in exchange for reduced sleep, are shown to be counterproductive
- Allowing nap breaks when appropriate
- Discouraging checking emails at night and on weekends
- Providing education about sleep and screening for sleep disorders