Sleep your way to the top (figuratively speaking of course)

New research has found that a lack of sleep is costing the UK an estimated £24 billion and over 200,000 lost working days every year – the equivalent to 1.8% of GDP.

The study, Why Sleep Matters: The Economic Costs of Insufficient Sleep conducted by the not-for-profit research organisation RAND Europe found that “sleep deprivation leads to a higher mortality risk and lower productivity levels among the workforce, which, when combined, has a significant impact on a nation’s economy.”

And if you’re an unlucky legal practitioner who burns the candle at both ends, the news isn’t all that great for you.

Indeed, the researchers have found that those who average six or less hours of sleep a night have “a 13% higher mortality risk than someone sleeping between seven and nine hours.” Sleeping between seven and nine hours per night was identified as the “healthy daily sleep range”.

The UK is synonymous with having a long hours working culture, with the average worker spending 43.6 hours a week either at work or performing a work-related activity compared with a European average of 40.3 hours. Aside from the health costs, a lack of sleep is also having a negative impact on businesses too.

The researchers also found evidence between sleep depravity and productivity, resulting in “absenteeism, employees not being at work, and presenteeism, where employees are at work but working at a sub-optimal level.”

A poll of 2,000 British adults published by the Royal Society for Public Health found that people in the UK slept an average of 6.8 hours each night – a range that the RAND research has found gives people a 7% higher mortality risk.

So what can be done to improve the amount of sleep we each get? The report authors recommend designing and building brighter workspaces with designated areas where staff can escape for a power nap.

They also advised against prolonged use of electronic devices – something that has been show in various studies to cause delayed sleep/wake schedules and “wake lag.” As Guy Meadows, clinical director of the Sleep School, said: “Workplaces are starting to wake up to the importance of sleep.

“Sleep deprivation harms memory recall, problem solving, concentration, and more and more employers are taking action.”

Sleep is important, we all know that. The problem many ambitious people have is the plethora of news articles and interviews with many high-profile figures in business who propagate how having few hours in bed each night contributes to their success.

It’s nonsense, just ask Adrianna Huffington whose own experience is of collapsing due to sleep deprivation. She now campaigns against those who brag about a lack of sleep and actually urges people to get more of it. In doing so, she argues, we can all become more successful. Take a look at her TEDTalk on the subject.

What is more important is to know your own body and being more in tune with your specific needs. Research is all very well, but we are all different and we each perform in ways that are unique to us – the number of hours’ sleep required for one person can vary for another. You know how much sleep that you as individual will need to perform at your optimum.