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The creeping tide of tiredness at work

Dr. Sarah Jarvis

According to new research, lack of sleep is causing bad working habits amongst the British working population, with 64 percent of people saying that their work life has been negatively affected by a lack of sleep. Contributor Dr. Sarah Jarvis General Practitioner.

Punctuality and attendance are not the only work-related issues caused by tiredness. 18 percent of people admit they have had arguments with their work colleagues because they are tired whilst 17 percent have made serious mistakes at work. In contrast, 17 percent of the British workforce is nodding off during the working day because they haven’t had enough sleep the night before.

The research, commissioned by Sealy UK, reveals 28 percent of people have arrived late to work because of a lack of sleep whilst almost a fifth have actually feigned an illness and not gone into work at all because they are tired.

But even more seriously, this ‘sleeplessness epidemic’ is leading many to seek help, with 1-in-6 people (16 percent) seeing their GP in the last 12-months because of illnesses related to a lack of sleep, equating to 9.5 million appointments. [2]

The top five worst bedtime habits adopted by people in the UK which could be contributing to poor sleep health, are:  

  • Using electronic devices in bed (47 per cent of people currently do this)
  • Eating sugary foods within three hours of your bedtime (35 per cent)
  • Drinking caffeine within three hours of bedtime (31 per cent)
  • Drinking alcohol within three hours of bedtime (25 per cent)
  • Eating a meal within two hours of bedtime (23 per cent)

When asked what they think would help them stay alert at work, 44 percent of people said more fresh air at work would help, whilst 34 percent would like more regular breaks. A cheeky 18 percent would like to be allowed to have a nap in the middle of the day.

Commenting on the results of the research, GP Dr Sarah Jarvis explained: “Poor sleep can have a huge knock-on effect on mood, wellbeing, concentration and even your physical health. There is really good evidence that electronic devices can affect your sleep, while caffeine makes you more alert and alcohol affects the quality of your sleep, even if you drop off quickly. Having a quiet, comfortable sleeping environment with a comfortable mattress and no ticking clocks, beeping mobiles or glowing lights can make a huge difference to your ‘sleep hygiene’.”

Neil Robinson, Chief Sleep Officer at Sealy UK added: “Sleep is a hugely important part of living a healthy lifestyle, but it can often get overlooked when it comes to understanding our physical and mental health and why we might not be feeling 100 percent.

“It’s shocking that we’re now living in a world where waking up tired over half of the time is considered normal, and it’s clear that more needs to be done to tackle what could become a serious public health issue in the coming years. Modern life can be hectic, especially when trying to balance a busy working day with family life, but it’s vital that people start prioritising getting good quality sleep in order to live the healthiest and happiest life they can.”

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