Insurance · 18 March 2016

Why small businesses should wake up to the impact of poor sleep

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World Sleep Day falls on 18 March

The average employee in Britain misses 8.5 days of work a year due to poor sleep, according to the results of a new survey.

To mark World Sleep Day on 18 March, the so-called World Sleep Survey conducted by Big Health also found that the UK’s “poor sleepers” – those who rated their sleep quality as below average – missed 14.6 days of work per year on average.

In what can be considered a growing health issue, 60 per cent of these poor sleepers don’t seek to address the problem and do not currently consult doctors about their poor sleep.

Conducted amongst 2,500 British participants, the survey concluded that the top three personal impacts of poor sleep were a decline in energy, mood and relationships with other people.

Respondents said that their work was affected in three main ways. Lower concentration levels were reported by 46 per cent of respondents, whilst 38 per cent said they lacked the ability to complete tasks and 27 per cent struggled to stay awake throughout the working day.

Commenting on the findings, Big Health co-founder and professor of sleep medicine at Oxford University Peter Hames said: “Now is the time for employers to wake up to the problem of sleep – improving employee’s sleep positively impacts workplace effectiveness and general wellbeing. Poor sleep is the unspoken productivity killer in the workplace and it has been ignored for too long.”

Alongside decreased levels of workplace productivity and concentration, poor sleep has also been linked with long-term mental health conditions like anxiety or depression. Absences due to sickness and working-age ill-health costs the UK economy £100bn a year, according to government research published in 2014, with the repercussions of poor sleep a large contributor to absenteeism. Sleeping pills alone cost the NHS £50mn a year.

Fellow Big Health co-founder Colin Espie identified the opportunity presented by World Sleep Day to acknowledge the widespread impact poor sleep has on our lives in the UK. “Sleep is not an optional extra in life, it’s a fundamental requirement. The consequences of a bad night’s rest affect us not only physically but also mentally and emotionally, seriously impacting our performance at work.

“No aspect of daily functioning is unaffected by sleep, least of all our jobs. Physically we will feel lethargic from poor sleep, mentally we slow down with poorer concentration and memory, and emotionally we become irritable, with bursts of hyperactivity,” added Espie.

Last month, a survey conducted by Instaprint discovered that more than ten per cent of small business owners give themselves less than four hours sleep a night in an effort to maximise the chance of their venture succeeding.

One in five owners were found to have missed medical appointments with doctors due to work commitments, whilst 45 per cent said they’d sacrificed family time for the sake of their startup.

Want to boost morale and keep your workforce motivated? Research suggests you should locate your micro firm outside of London.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Fred Heritage was previously deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London.

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