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Does your Wellbeing programme consider sleep?

24 Aug 2016 - Blog

Does your Wellbeing programme consider sleep?

The sleep patterns of the rich and famous have fascinated us since Margaret Thatcher famously announced she ran the country on four hours per night, and scientists debated the ‘Thatcher gene.’

In the last few weeks, we’ve seen a lot of debate on the topic.  Our very own Dr. George Margrove talked to The Telegraph about how despite the trends for clean eating, middle-aged triathlons and mindfulness, sleep remains “one of the least understood of all the wellbeing issues”.

Yet poor sleep is an indicator of mental ill health, which accounts for 18% of all working time lost in the UK, according to research by FirstCare.

“There is a huge link between exercise and wellbeing, which is very well known and very well established – but without sleep, it does not matter how much exercise you do,” says Dr. George. “And if you don’t sleep, then you are not going to have any energy to do any exercise.”

Despite the growth in our understanding of the importance of sleep, the stories of business leaders only settling down for a few hours a night has a trickle-down effect.

If the bosses are doing it, then there is pressure on the staff to follow suit. But most people simply would not be able to cope.

“This CEO, macho, ‘I don’t need any sleep’ approach is potentially very damaging. It reminds me of the Gordon Gekko approach,” George said, name-checking Michael Douglas’ notorious turn in 1980s film Wall Street.

“In some organisations, people don’t feel that they can sleep, so they have to try and compensate with other things. In fact, you are probably better off having an extra hour of sleep than having an hour in the gym. Pound-for-pound, sleep is king.”

Businesses with an interest in developing physical and mental health and wellbeing approaches could learn from some forward thinkers such as insurance group Aetna, who literally pay their staff to sleep.

Such is the US firm’s concern about the impact of sleep deprivation on employee performance, that it encourages its workers to sign up to a scheme that rewards them for getting at least seven hours of shut-eye per night.

Aetna staff that participate can earn $25 for every 20 nights in which they sleep seven hours or more, up to a limit of $300 every 12 months.

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