Why Companies Are Taking Sleep More Seriously

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More and more, lack of sleep is rearing its ugly head.

Barely a morning goes by at the Conduit coffee point without co-workers comparing their sleep patterns and the correlating cups of coffee they need to get through the day.

I wondered how many other companies were as obsessed with talking about sleep as we were. Five minutes into my research, I discovered that there are countless infographics on the topic of sleep deprivation and corporate culture. There are infographics on basic facts about sleep, the long-term risks associated with insufficient sleep, and even an analysis of when the Internet sleeps!

 

We assume that most people know the basics about sleep, yet we see our society becoming increasingly sleepless. For those a little muddy on the facts, here is a quick recap: Our minds and bodies need sleep in order to recuperate and regenerate. A good night’s sleep can leave us feeling happier, more alert, and energetic, and is linked to increased efficiency in problem solving and empathy (compared to someone who is sleep deprived). Recent studies have also linked a lack of sleep to an increased risk of cancer, heart disease, and obesity.

Despite these facts, our public leaders display widely differing attitudes towards sleep. Bill Clinton used to take regular naps in the Oval Office to get away from the stresses and strains of the American presidency. Margaret Thatcher, the UK’s first female prime minister, famously stated that she got by on just four hours of sleep a night.

In the past year, “sleep” has become an increasingly hot topic within the tech world. Key opinion leaders like the Buffer App Blog tackle the question of “How much sleep do we really need to work productively?” while Mashable names 10 apps that will help you get a better night’s sleep. Even Arianna Huffington proudly claims that she is a “sleep evangelist”.

So if we know that sleep benefits our mind and body, and a lack of sleep has both short- and long-term side effects, then isn’t it about time we all took sleeping far more seriously?

Well, it turns out we are starting to. Forward-thinking companies have started to address the realities of corporate culture and the need for sleep. Human Resources departments around the world are now acknowledging sleep as a corporate concern, and encourage their workers to take their sleep as seriously as they do their vacation days.

Nike employees have access to nap-friendly "quiet rooms" that can also be used for meditation. British Airways allows pilots to sleep during long international flights while co-pilots take over the controls. Google has made their futuristic “sleep pod” a regular feature within their global offices. Time Warner and Newsweek outsource their “daytime napping solutions” to local napping spas in Manhattan.

These changes highlight an interesting shift in our culture’s attitude towards “normal” working hours. Where long hours were once associated with a working class lifestyle, and even poverty, now they are directly associated with ambition, success and prosperity. Dolly Parton once famously claimed that 9-5 was a great way to make a living. Now, average working hours are closer to 10 hours a day. So isn’t it about time that all companies recognize this reality and invest in their workers’ wellbeing by helping them get that extra hour or two of sleep? I believe they should, even if it does fall between the 9-5.

Photo credit: CocteauBoy