Wake up to the benefits of sleep training, says new research

by John Hilton18 Mar 2016
George Costanza might have been on to something when he set up a bed under his office desk in the classic episode of Seinfeld “The Nap”.
 
Indeed, companies are not pulling their weight when it comes to promoting healthy sleeping, according to a new report by the consulting firm McKinsey & Company.
 
The report, titled The organisational cost of insufficient sleep, found that lack sleep is detrimental to learning, creativity, problem solving and the ability of people to trust others.
 
It cites research that shows roughly 17 to 19 hours of wakefulness means that individual performance on a range of tasks is equivalent to that of a person with a blood-alcohol level of 0.05%. – the legal drinking limit in many countries. 
 
The firm surveyed business leaders and found:
  • 43% say they don't get enough sleep at least four nights a week.
  • 47% said their companies expect them to be too responsive to emails and phone calls.
  • 66% said they were dissatisfied with how much sleep they get.
  • 36% said their companies don't allow them to make sleep a priority. 
The answer to this problem?
 
Apparently, it involves sleep training programs.
 
In fact, 70% of the leaders in the survey said that sleep management should be taught in organisations, in the same way that time management and communication skills are now.
 
“Ideally, such programs should be part of a unified learning program that includes a number of components, such as online assessments, in-person workshops, and a performance-support app offering reminders, short inspirational videos or animations, additional assessments, and opportunities to connect with online communities,” said the report.

Phyllis Zee, the medical director of the Centre for Circadian and Sleep Medicine at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, concurred that sleep training programs are a great idea.

"It's not so much training people to sleep, it's changing the culture, and that's important,” she was quoted as saying by the Chicago Tribune.

“We have had this culture where we brag about how little sleep we got and how well we can function with so little sleep. It was a badge of honour. It's slowly shifting.
 
"The largest factor is that we're not prioritising our sleep. We're not maintaining a regular sleep and wake time, it seems to be something that's expendable. If you have something you need to do, you're likely to just curtail your sleep."

The survey also found that more than half of business leaders would like to see their companies imitate other businesses that have adopted sleep pods and nap rooms.
 
"Research has shown that a short nap of 10 to 30 minutes improves alertness and performance for up to 2½ hours," said the report.
 
“Companies should embed sleep training in a broader approach to well-being that takes in other topics, notably exercise, nutrition, mindfulness, and energy management.”