More than 40 percent of the U.S. workforce is sleep deprived, from CEOs to interns. The average American gets 6.5 hours of sleep each night, when the majority of us need 7.5 to 8 to feel rested, says Sarah Moe, a registered polysomnographic technologist, aka sleep expert. Moe’s Minneapolis consultancy, Sleep Health Specialists, helps companies create more sleep-positive workplaces and educates employees on the benefits of better sleep, from increased efficiency and happiness to the bottom line: Sleep deprivation costs businesses $3,000 per employee on average each year for illness, absences, and lower productivity. Here’s her advice.
At the office:
Remove the stigma around sleep. Before you can create a nap-friendly office, you need to create a culture that allows employees to feel comfortable enough to use the space. Let them know your plans to create a restful space and your hopes that they will use it. Ensure there is no fear of repercussions or associations with laziness. The more at ease they are to take that time to restore, the happier, healthier, and more productive they will be.
Cultivate quiet. You don’t have to break the bank to create a comfortable resting space. If you can provide the $10,000 napping pods they have at Google headquarters, great—they’re effective and cool, and your team will love them. But they’ll also love a quiet room with a comfortable recliner and a door that shuts. Add a few eye masks, earplugs, a fan (we all love a fan to sleep), and a sound machine, and you’ve got yourself an official napping space.
Allow for necessary changes. After you roll out the first version of your rest space, consider taking stock of how it’s being received. Send out a survey: Are employees using it? What do they like about it? What’s missing? You may hear concerns that will allow you to pivot and create a more effective space more employees will use.
Power down. The blue light emitted from cell phones, laptops, televisions, and tablets is currently the No. 1 barrier to restful sleep. Eliminate exposure for 30 minutes before bedtime, and better sleep will follow.
Limit caffeine. Many of us assume our tolerance will save us from the impact of caffeinated beverages, but that’s rarely the case. Drinking caffeinated beverages suppresses the hormone adenosine, which helps us feel groggy and fall asleep, so even if you drink it frequently, caffeine will cause “racing brain” as you attempt to go to sleep. Don’t drink any after 2 p.m.
Single nightcaps. Having a nice smooth whiskey with dinner or a glass of wine while winding down at the end of a long day is something we all deserve. But excessive consumption, especially close to bedtime, plays a major role in poor sleep. Alcohol suppresses REM sleep, which is the restorative stage that makes us feel rested. Limit the nightcap to just one drink.
Land the plane properly. Going to bed is like landing a plane. When flying through the sky, we don’t land by suddenly dropping out of the sky onto the runway. Yet after a crazy day, we think we can “drop out of the sky,” sleepwise, and drift straight off to dreamland. It doesn’t work that way. Create a nice relaxing routine for yourself leading up to bedtime, which can include turning off electronics, lighting a candle, reading a book, and meditating.
Set a good example. Leadership sets the tone for the entire office. By letting your employees know that you value sleep as an important factor in health and well-being, they will absorb similar attitudes. Start by eliminating work-related correspondence via email and text after 8 p.m.
Get more sleep tips from Moe, and perspective sleep culture at work, on our podcast By All Means.