Organisational Change Management Volume 2

22. Sleep (includes light)


"...Sleep is a complex system of behavioural, automatic, homoeostatic and circadian drives controlled by an intricate web of neurotransmitters..."

Ron Grunstein et al 2019

"...most estimates now place an average night's sleep for an adult in the West at 6 1/2 hours or fewer. Only a generation ago, it was eight hours and in the early 20th century, 10. It is hard to overstate how momentous these changes are to everyday life......after millennia of stability. As globalised capitalism and technology move us ever closer to a 24/7 - 365 existence, and away from circadian rhythms, most of the world's working adults have lost their connection to both the steady daily routines of agrarian, pre-electric society and increasingly, the regulated......industrial capitalism of the 9 - 5 production line. In a smartphone-enabled, economy world, what happens to you when you never clock off......for one thing, these changes are having deleterious consequences on our mental and physical health - not just insomnia, but depression, anxiety, heart disease and cancer are all rising, in part because of sleep deprivation..."

Dan Hancox 2019

Even though we understand that sleep deprivation can be a problem, we tend to focus on short-term palliatives, sleep trapping apps, meditation and tablets.

We know that without sleep we suffer dire consequences and sleep is an essential life-support system. Sleep deprivation causes disease and in extreme cases can be fatal.

NB All animals with nervous systems sleep.

There are multiple biological reasons to sleep, ie

"...The ancient origins of sleep lie in circadian pattern of activity and rest that governs most forms of life on Earth. The profound changes in light, temperature and food availability that take place over 24 hours led species to specialise for optimal performance under either diurnal for nocturnal conditions, but not both.

As animals evolved to move around during the day, feeding and procreating, natural selection simultaneously flavoured night-time inactivity to keep them out of the way of predators, pathogens and accidental injury. Conversely, nocturnal creatures developed an urge to rest out of harm's way in daytime conditions. Species are adapted to a particular temporal and physical niche......activity at the wrong time often means death.

Once a circadian cycle had been established, evolution drove further specialisation so that essential biological housekeeping functions take place during the animal's downtime, when the brain is not swamped with incoming sensory information and the body is not devoted to energy-intense activities..."

Clive Cookson 2018

"...all animals have a powerful drive to sleep, which eventually becomes irresistible. This can be described mathematically as interaction between two fundamental processes...... one is sleep pressure, which builds up from the time you wake and then reduces as you sleep. The other is the circadian process, which keeps track of time and tells the brain when it should be awake..."

Vladyslav Vyazovskiy as quoted by Clive Cookson 2018

Two housekeeping functions of sleep have been identified

i) waste disposal mechanism (cleans the brain of toxic proteins and rubbish arising from cerebral activity, ie

"...The glymphatic system...... pumps cerebrospinal fluid through the brain and flushes out waste back into the body's main circuitry system, which takes it into the liver for eventual disposal. Brain cells called glia contract by up to 60% during sleep, leaving more space for cerebrospinal fluid......the existence of the glymphatic system may help to explain the observation that inadequate sleep increases the risk of suffering from Alzheimer's disease...... it gives less time for toxic molecules involved in the disease, such as amyloid and tau proteins, to be cleared from the brain..."

Matthew Walker as quoted by Clive Cookson 2018

ii) information processing and memory consolidation (REM and non-REM play a role in complex data processing of the brain, ie it is

"...proposed that the brain organises information into a useful framework during non-REM sleep, REM helps us to see beyond the framework and make unexpected connections between memories. In non-REM sleep, memories captured by the brain's hippocampus......As we detect similarities between them, information is laid down in the cortex and we learn a framework based on thematic links. During REM, the cortex synchronises with the hippocampus and is free to replay the stored information in different combinations. This is facilitated by special brainwaves that appear to activate errors of the cortex almost randomly..."

Penny Lewis as quoted by Clive Cookson 2018

However sleep has an image problem

"...Rising late or spending lots of time in bed has come to be seen as laziness..."

Margarette Driscoll 2018

. Sleep is inherently dangerous due to loss of alertness. thus, we are wired to sort out sounds as we sleep so that we can differentiate threats from the benign noises.

. Adequate sleep plays a pivotal role in underpinning all these factors that impact upon competitiveness in a modern society, such as promoting learning, concentration, imagination and creativity; sharpening problem-solving and accuracy; consolidating memory; improving mood and reaction time

. Sleep is like food, ie an essential factor in wellbeing. It is more about resting the mind than the body.

. In general, adults need around 8 hours of sleep per night as the human brain is only capable of around 16 hours of wakefulness; otherwise cognitive performance declines, ie

"...your reaction speed, short-term and long-term memory, ability to focus, decision-making capacity, math processing, cognitive speed, and spatial orientation all start to suffer......Cutback sleep......and the accumulated sleep deficit magnifies these negative effects..."

Charles Czeisler, 2006

. Research on American police officers (Alexandra Roginski, 2012) showed that a high number (40%) of police officers suffered sleep disorders that arose from a combination of

- lifestyle (poor diet and exercise)

- job-related stresses

- shift work factors

. More detail on "slumber blunders" from police study

Performance indicator

Percentage of increased risk for persons with sleep disorder (%)

Serious administrative error


Falling asleep while driving


Error or safety violation attributed to fatigue


Error or safety violation not attributed to fatigue


Occupational injury


Uncontrolled anger towards suspects or citizen




Falling asleep during meetings


Falling asleep while stopped in traffic


Citizens' complaints


They are also more than twice as likely to suffer from depression

. Sleep loss and sleep disturbance show a complex and bi-directional relationship with mood, ie

"...Sleep loss impairs your ability to regulate mood, and mood disturbances in turn may have an adverse impact on sleep...... Disrupting the body's biological clock exposes.....the risk of many different things. It upsets the natural physiology of the body..."

Shantha Rajaratnam as quoted by Alexandra Roginski, 2012

. Previously it was thought that people like doctors became immune to the negative impacts of sleep deprivation and shift work owing to their gruelling medical training. Recent research has debunked this myth.

In 2017 around 40% of Australians experience some form of inadequate sleep, with the total cost estimated to be around $A 67 b. annually.

"...Good sleep is important for health..." 

Evelyn Lewin, 2018 

It is the foundation of health, ie 

"... If you can correct your sleep habits, you will more likely eat well and exercise..." 

Wayne Hollows as quoted by Sally Patten, 2018 

Generally people are feeling more tiredness and are blaming lack of sleep for this. Other factors like eating habits, exercise routines, mental health, etc could be involved. 

"...The culture in the business world is, if you're not keeping up, you go harder. But there's research showing the way to "go harder" and make better decisions is to pull back a bit..." 

David Cunnington as quoted by Evelyn Lewin, 2018 

Research has shown 

"... People who haven't had enough sleep tended to see people as more hostile and are more likely to behave in hostile ways themselves. It also found that they aren't aware of this effect and may harm relationships without realising..." 

Evelyn Lewin, 2018 

With the pressure to perform, sleep is now being realised as pivotal to achieving this. 

The ideal situation is 

"...Go to bed earlier and aim for eight hours sleep, take rest breaks every 60 to 90 minutes during the day, readily practise relaxation techniques such as meditation and breathing and avoid caffeine after 2 pm..." 

Wayne Hollows as quoted by Sally Patten, 2018 

Some research shows that workplace performance can increase by around 50% if you get a good night's sleep

Some questions to ask about your sleep: 

- are you waking early in the morning and unable to get back to sleep?

- is your day busy with no downtime?

- are there stresses and worries that you haven't adequately addressed?

- are you expecting more sleep than normal for your age (older adults need less sleep)?

- are there health issues you suffer from and/or medications you are taking that can impact on your sleep patterns?

- do you need an alarm to wake you in the morning? 
If so regularly, then you need more sleep 

Sleep problems are common to depression, such as feeling sleepy throughout the day, sleeping for long periods at night, insomnia (trouble getting to sleep or staying awake)


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