It’s a near guarantee that the majority of British workers need more sleep. The occasional night of tossing and turning can make us irritable or unpleasant the next day, but what happens when we’re continually sleep-deprived? How bad are the consequences?
There is an endless list of reasons as to why you might be sleeping much less than you need. Most commonly, it’s due to having young kids, caffeine, mobile phones in bed and other parts of daily life. However, beyond the rat-race of chemicals and technology that we use to get through a day of work, there are some more sinister, systemic causes.
The 9-5 working week might seem like a slog for some, but for others, it is a far-off dream. Shift work swallows up huge portions of many people’s time, and for some, this level of sleep deprivation is not an occasional annoyance, it’s every single day. Continuously rising at four in the morning to go and open up a shop or cafe, for example, can only be detrimental to one’s well-being when done over a long period of time. As well as uneven patterns of hours, many workers feel pressured into taking much longer shifts or working overtime as an invisible badge of honour in the workplace.
When we don’t get enough sleep, the consequences stack up fast. Our brains can become foggy and our concentration can slip. Our moods dip, or we could fall asleep on the job. Even when commuting to and from work, a worker could fall asleep at the wheel and cause serious harm to themselves or others.
Longer term, this lack of sleep spirals into a risk of serious conditions like high blood pressure or heart disease. On average, people in this country get around 6.8 hours of sleep a night – the lower end of what is healthy. A further 16% get less than 6 hours, and this is the group who is most at risk from these damaging consequences.
What can you do to make sleep top of the priority list? There are some things we can’t control without a great deal of planning and determination, like issues with employers or systemic, cultural problems. But, there’s plenty that individuals can do to make sleep one less stressor to deal with. Workers can try sleeping in a pitch black room, not eating any heavy meals close to bedtime, and establishing a regular routine at night.
Improving your sleep can boost immunity, help you lose weight, and it is even linked to increased fertility. Surely, these benefits are worth taking the extra time to sort out your sleep? Britain’s workers are suffering needlessly, so it’s time to ditch the overtime, get the routine in place, and put sleep back on the agenda.
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