· News

Almost all HR professionals losing sleep over work

Lack of sleep is costing the UK economy more than £1 billion in annual revenue because of days taken off sick

Almost all HR professionals (93%) have admitted to being kept awake at night thinking about work, according to research by retailer Time4Sleep.

This makes HR the profession most likely to be kept awake by work stress, followed by marketing (89%), doctors, nurses and dentists (88%), and lawyers (87%). Some 13% of HR staff will hit their snooze button eight times on average before managing to get out of bed in the morning.

Separate research from Bensons for Beds and the Sleep School found that lack of sleep is costing the UK economy more than £1 billion in annual revenue due to 8% of respondents calling in sick when they feel too tired to work after a poor night’s sleep. Nearly a quarter (22%) said that poor sleep affected their ability to do their job, and 12% had actually fallen asleep at their desk or during a meeting.

As for the negative impact of poor sleep on performance, 68% reported a reduction in their ability to be focused and attentive, 44% felt less motivated, and 28% felt more stressed.

Guy Meadows, sleep physiologist and founder of the Sleep School, told HR magazine that a lack of sleep can be incredibly dangerous.

“Our prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain responsible for many of the higher order executive functions, such as focused attention, creative problem-solving and memory recall – is incredibly vulnerable to sleep deprivation,” he said. “This explains why we feel more stressed after a night of poor sleep because we get pushed into the amygdala: the primitive threat-detecting part of our brain. The net result is that we tend to view ourselves, others and the world around us in a more negative light.

“Perhaps more concerning is that poor sleep also affects our brains' ability to assess risk, increasing the likelihood of us making riskier decisions than when we're well-rested. This could explain why sleep deprivation has been found to be at the heart of most major disasters, including Chernobyl, Exon Valdez and the Challenger space shuttle.”

Jonathan Warren, director of Time4sleep.co.uk, suggested better sleep habits could help. “It can be hard leaving your workload in the office and not to think about work late at night but it’s important we try and make our home a stress-free environment,” he said. “Establishing a routine around bedtime and writing down your worries or thoughts for the day will help you unwind and make getting to sleep easier.”