Sleep, Business Productivity and Health Benefits

A hidden place. Sleeping woman in deep jungle forest lies on air

Quantifiable Sleep Yields Workplace Productivity, Health Benefits

“Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together”—Thomas Dekker


Do We Need To Sleep?

How many of us skimp on the recommended hours of sleep every night—7-8 hours?

Sleeping, for many, may seem as the ultimate form of inactivity or lack of productivity.  Latest health news states that for good overall health we need adequate sleep as much as we need a healthy diet and regular physical activity.

The American Health Association reports that only 5-10% of adults meet ideal standards in diet, physical activity and tobacco use.

If we fall into the “ideal” 5-10%, then our risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other related morbidities may potentially be reduced—however when it comes to sleep there is still a lot of research to be done which leaves us battling with the question—Do we really need to sleep?

The very short answer is YES!

Leaders Who Broke Ground and Paved the Way on Sleep and Work Productivity

The former Aetna Chairman and CEO Mark Bertolini initiated a mission to create a culture that encourages workers to get more sleep and in turn increase work productivity.  Bertolini started the program to encourage Aetna employees to get more sleep and earn extra money.  “Sleep is very important. You can’t be prepared if you are half-asleep. If employees can prove they get 20 nights of sleep for seven hours or more in a row, we will give them $25 a night, up $500 a year,” he said, explaining Aetna uses various ways to help workers keep track, including the use of fitness trackers.

Bertolini has the numbers to back-up his assertion that better sleep can lead to bigger profits.

Scientific research tells us that sleep does not serve just a single purpose. Robert Stickgold—former Director of the Center for Sleep and Cognition at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center—found that sleep is needed for the optimal functioning of a multitude of biological processes—from the inner workings of the immune system to proper hormonal balance, emotional and psychiatric health, learning and memory and the clearance of toxins from the brain. Sleep enhances the performance of these systems.

Sleep and Overall Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about a third of Americans get less than seven hours of sleep a night and more than a third of adults in the US are obese.  Obesity and sleep restriction have become extremely common because sleep loss alters our metabolic functions.

Loss of sleep reduces levels of leptin, a hormone that suppresses appetite, and increases levels of ghrelin, an appetite-stimulating hormone—a combination that can encourage eating.

A study published in American Journal of Health Promotion

Another study published in American Journal of Health Promotion, suggested a link between short sleep and obesity from secondary eating and drinking while engaged in another activity.

The authors stated “the association between short sleep and obesity risk is well-established.” However, the researchers looked at whether short sleep attributes to increased caloric intake in the form of sugar sweetened beverages and distracted eating—while primarily engaged in another activity such as television watching.

On the flip side, a study released last week looked at the association between fatty diets and sleep.

The lead researcher, Ms. Cao, stated “poor sleep and feeling sleepy during the day signifies less energy which may in turn increase people’s cravings for high-fat, high-carbohydrate foods, which is then associated with poor sleep outcomes.  Therefore, the poor diet-and-sleep pattern can become a vicious cycle.”

Though more research is needed to explore the links between sleep loss, work productivity and specific health outcomes, we can say for certain that sleep is too important to shortchange.  The goal from a good night’s sleep is to wake up feeling refreshed and to stay awake and alert throughout the day without relying on stimulants or other pick-me-ups.

Remember, optimal health requires a multitude of factors—sleep is an essential factor and probably the less challenging of them all—after all how difficult is it to change into comfortable sleepwear, curl up under warm blankets and drift off into a dreamy state of unconsciousness.

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