Sleep Squeeze And Ways To Handle

. In today's world of long working hours, there is a "sleep squeeze", especially for those who are ambitious about their careers. Sleep squeeze impact is negative as

"...poorly slept and overworked people are unlikely to be innovative, creative and flexible, especially if they are led by managers who are often so exhausted that they find it difficult to think straight, let alone laterally..."

Charles Leaderbeater as quoted by James Hall , 2004d

Furthermore, when the brain is deprived of a couple of days' sleep, it is the routine or repetitive tasks, such as driving a car, that suffer more than the performance of complex, challenging tasks.

. Who doesn't get enough sleep? (based on UK data)

organisational development change management


i) including junior management and non-manual workers such as call center staff

. What do people do when they don't get enough sleep? (based on UK data)


Become irritable and shout 42

Argue with partner 22

Feel like sleeping at work 21

Make mistakes at work 13

Nearly have a car accident 5

. Research has shown that the longer we go without sleep, the more disorientated we become:

"...sleepy workers are about seven times more likely to have an accident, three times more likely to be absent from work, less innovative and less able to focus on the task at hand..."

Ron Grunstein has quoted by Brad Hatch, 2005b

. It is felt that the best way to handle this is to have facilities where staff can have power naps, and to be more accommodating of workers needing sleep, such as providing nap rooms in offices, allowing more people to work from home, and allowing sleep catch-up days (essential for those working particularly long hours). The power nap of around 10 minutes will increase alertness and performance for around 3 hours. However, a longer nap of over 20 minutes can cause post-nap grogginess. The best time for the nap is in the mid afternoon when the circadian rhythm slumps.

Ways to get the best out of each day, while keeping in mind the circadian and ultradian rhythms, and their links with glucose levels

. Get up at the same time each morning

. If you need to catch up on sleep, go to bed early as sleeping in resets your body clock

. Breakfast on carbohydrates and proteins

. Get at least 15 minutes exercise before work

. Schedule the most strategic work for your peak hours, ie are you a lark or an owl?

. Snack mid-morning and afternoon with carbohydrates and proteins; avoid sugary foods as they only give you a short-lived energy lift

. Schedule meetings before 3 pm, ie before glucose levels drop

. Keep lunch light and include a protein

. Sit in the sun for around 15 minutes per day as lack of sunlight can make you feel listless and depressed

Some more tips

- only use medication as a short-term measure (sometimes ongoing use of medication, like sleeping pills, can lead to dependence and interfere with developing good sleeping habits that are independent of medication)

- get regular (go to bed and get up at the same time every day; this regular rhythm will make you feel better and allows your body to develop its own patterns)

- sleep when sleepy (don't spend too much time awake in bed; only go to bed if feeling tired or sleeping)

- get up & try again (if unable to sleep, do something calming or boring until you feel sleepy, then return to bed and try again; keep away from bright lights; avoid doing anything that is too stimulating or interesting)

- avoid drugs like caffeine, nicotine & alcohol (these drugs are stimulants and will disrupt sleep)

- bed is for sleeping (you need to get your body to associate bed with sleep and not with watching TV, eating, reading, working, etc)

- no naps (to make sure that you are tired at bedtime, avoid daytime naps; if you need a nap make sure it is less than an hour and before 3 pm)

- rituals (develop your own rituals to remind your body that it is time to sleep, eg relaxing exercises, etc)

- bath time (having a hot bath 1 - 2 hours before bedtime will raise the body temperature causing you to feel sleepy as your body temperature drops again - sleepiness is associated with a drop in body temperature)

- no clock watching (frequently checking the clock during a night can wake you up)

- use a sleep diary (record the facts about your sleep patterns)

- exercise (regular, non-strenuous exercise is a good idea to help with good sleep; morning walks are a good way to start the day feeling refreshed)

- eat right (a healthy, balanced diet is important and so is timing of meals, ie have a light meal in the evening)

- right space (your bedroom should be quiet, dark and comfortable for sleeping; otherwise use blankets to stay warm, curtains and blinds to block out light and ear plugs, if there is noise)

- keep daytime routine the same (don't avoid activities because you feel tired)

(source: Centre for Clinical Intervention, 2016)

NB - Loss of sleep results is loss of IQ, eg 10 points if you miss 1 night's sleep

It is interesting to note that research into hunter-gatherers in Africa has found

"...when family members of different ages live together, the differences in their sleeping patterns ensures that at least one person is awake, or sleeping very likely at all times..."
Sarah Knapton, 2017

This is an evolutionary leftover when there was a need for someone keep a watchful eye over the family sleeping.

Length of time asleep (around 8 hours) is about 20% less than 100 years ago; 1/3 of us have less than 6 hours. Inadequate sleep causes "sleep squeeze" that has a negative impact on

  1. cognitive ability like learning, creativity, problem-solving, imagination, etc
  2. immune system , ie become more susceptible to colds, cancers, heart attacks, obesity (over- eat when tired), depression, diabetics, etc

. Power nap (10 minutes) is very effective; if sleep longer go into a deeper speak pattern.

Sleep impacts on the body's internal workings

"...It enhances our immune system so that when deprived of it, we are not only liable to catch a cold, but also more susceptible to other types of cancer - and if we already have cancer, it will probably grow faster. We are more likely to have heart attacks or become depressed. We overreach when tired and because our metabolism alters too, we are far more prone to obesity and diabetes..."

Rosie Blau, 2014

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