How sleep deprivation affects our work and tips for getting a good night's rest

Lizette Bester, an executive at employee risk-management company Agility Corporate talks to Azania Mosaka about the high cost of poor sleep.

Sleep-deprived staff members are less productive and innovative, she argues.

She notes that it has been estimated that sleep deprivation costs business in the United States an estimated $150 billion a year in absenteeism, workplace accidents and lost productivity.

The amount of sleep a person needs varies from one individual to another and is also influenced by age, with older people typically requiring less sleep than teenagers, for example.

Some individuals get by on only six hours of sleep, others require up to nine hours to feel properly rested. Some research suggests that the average adult should get seven hours of sleep for optimal health and productivity.

Studies have suggested that:

• Sleep-deprived staff members are 14% more likely to be late for work and 19% more likely to make crucial errors.

• Staff members who do not get sufficient sleep are 70% more likely to be involved in motor vehicle accidents and nearly twice as likely to perish in a work-related accident.

• When sleep deprived, a person’s ability to solve problems decreases 57% and their decision-making abilities are reduced by 56%.

Common causes of insomnia include:

• Anxiety, stress, or psychological conditions

• Medical conditions including chronic sinusitis, allergies or restless leg syndrome • Certain medications

• Environmental factors, such as noise or light

Fortunately, there are a number of simple measures a that a person can take to help improve their sleep: • Keep your bedroom dark. Even the light of an electronic alarm clock can disrupt your sleep cycle.

• Switch off all electronic devices like cell phones, televisions, and laptops at least one hour before bedtime. The blue light produced by mobile devices acts as a stimulant, keeping your brain active and unable to get to sleep.

• Cut down on caffeine, which is found in coffee, certain types of tea and chocolate, as these stimulants will keep your heart rate high and prevent you from getting enough sleep. Your last cup should be in the early afternoon.

• Exercise regularly and do not eat large, heavy meals just before bedtime.

• Develop a consistent sleep routine. This means that you should try to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every day.

• Avoid long naps during the day as this will make it difficult to fall asleep at night.

• Make sure that your bed, pillow, and duvet are comfortable, as these ‘tools’ play a vital role in your ability to sleep.

• Keep pets out of the bedroom at night to minimise disturbances.

• Avoid alcohol, particularly during the week, as this can inhibit restful ‘rapid eye movement’ (REM) sleep.

If you try the above and find that you still feel tired during the day, you may be suffering from a sleep disorder and should consider making an appointment with your doctor to get to the root of the problem as sleep is essential to all-round well-being and improved sleep will benefit your health, your state of mind, and your work performance, Bester concluded.

Take a listen to her advice below: