The importance of a good night’s sleep
Good quality sleep is accepted as being important to help us feel energised the following day, but what isn’t so recognised is that it is as essential for our health as eating and exercise. Research has linked the effects of poor sleep to a higher risk of cardiac disease, diabetes, depression and even weight gain. Many people are now wearing fitness trackers in a bid to monitor exercise levels and calorie consumption, but less attention is often paid to establishing a good quality of sleep. With a third of our lives spent asleep, having good quality sleep should be as essential as eating a healthy diet and maintaining a good exercise regime.
So often the pace of life means that people fall into bed at night physically exhausted but with their brains still racing, which makes it harder to get to sleep. Other times, sleep may come quickly but only to be wide awake at 3am. The associated fatigue can result in a number of workplace problems, affecting work performance (productivity and quality) and working relationships. Without adequate sleep, employees have more difficulty concentrating, learning and communicating which can also lead to safety concerns.
There are a number of tips to assist with a good quality sleep:
- Increase the exposure to bright light during the day. The body has a natural body clock called the circadian rhythm. Natural day light or bright lights keep the circadian rhythm healthy and increasing the amount of natural daylight during the day can help with sleep patterns. A study in adults showed that 2 hours of exposure to bright light during the day, increased sleep quality and efficiency by 80%. If working nights reduce the possibility of exposure to natural light then investing in a light box, or natural daylight lamp can help.
- Going to bed and getting up at the same time every day is really beneficial. Our bodies work to a natural circadian rhythm and research has shown that if the time you go to bed and get up alters, it can affect the natural rhythm of the body. Sleeping at the weekend for those extra 2 or 3 hours can cause similar effects as having jet lag!
- Having a 20-minute warm bath with some Epsom salts in it can really aid a good night’s sleep – Epsom salts are a great source of magnesium which is strongly linked with muscle relaxation, lower blood pressure, and improved sleep.
- Avoiding blue light for 2 hours before bed. Blue light is found in TVs, computers and smart phones. Blue light can trick the brain into thinking it is daytime and reduces the amount of melatonin that is released. Melatonin is the hormone that starts to increase when it gets dark and helps the body to relax and fall asleep. Filters can be applied to phones, computers and smart TVs to reduce the amount of blue light that is being emitted, to limit the impact these devices have on the brain in the evening time.
- Avoid caffeine after mid-afternoon. Caffeine acts as a stimulant, which will stop the body from relaxing. It can stay in the body for 6-8 hours, so not having any caffeine after 3 or 4pm drastically improves the quality of sleep.
- Avoid eating a large meal or drinking too much alcohol before going to bed. Eating a big meal can stimulate certain hormones which in turn stop the body from relaxing.
- Developing a nightly routine to help with relaxation in the hour before going to bed can help e.g. reading a book, having a bath, having a massage, meditating, visualisation or breathing exercises. Headspace, Insight Timer or Calms are apps that can be downloaded onto a phone with various activities which can help.
- Ruling out a sleep disorder is important and situations which should be discussed with the GP include being overweight and having a tendency to snore, or falling asleep on sitting down.
- Getting the bedroom environment right is important so that its isn’t too hot, cold, noisy or bright. It is advised that mattresses are changed every 5-8 years and studies show that a good mattress can improve sleep quality by up to 60%.
Sleep is one of the topics that we cover in our Managing Your Health training session for employees. To discuss this, or to find out how we can work with you and your employees to improve health and wellbeing contact us by clicking here.
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For more information about how Lincoln Occupational Health can help you please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0844 481 0093 where our team will be happy to help.