Waking up refreshed can make a huge difference to your day and the wellbeing of your employees. Feeling engaged at work involves many factors, but if you have a foggy head, or are feeling exhausted from lack of sleep, you aren’t giving yourself the best chance. To make the most of employee wellbeing and enjoy your work, you need to be mentally at your best, and sleep is a big part of that.If you feel like sleep is holding you back from being the best you can be on a day- to-day basis, and it’s affecting your employee wellbeing, read on to understand why sleep is so vital and discover techniques that can help you have a healthy amount of shut-eye.
Sleep is a time of repair and rejuvenation. When we sleep the body repairs itself, grows tissues, and builds bone and muscle. The essential chemicals that strengthen our immune system circulate in our blood. Some scientists describe the REM sleep phase as the brain clearing out the information you do not need. Our brains have their own wastage system – called the Glymphatic System. It’s a macroscopic waste clearance system. Special channels from the spinal column to the brain cavity, clear surplus or toxic materials from corresponding brain fluids.
I like to compare sleeping to when the cleaners come into the office – pack and file away important items in the cupboard, sweep the floors and take the rubbish out. Sleep is a crucial time for our mind and body's wellbeing.
We experience four cycles when we sleep: one is Rapid Eye Movement Sleep (REM) and the other three form non-REM (NREM) sleep.
Within the NREM sleep phase, there are three different stages, each stage can last from 5 to 15 minutes, and you go through all three phases before reaching the REM sleep cycle.
You begin the NREM sleep cycle in what is called the ‘N1’ stage, move to ‘N2’, and then and move into deeper ‘N3 Stage. ‘N1’ stage is essentially the "dozing off" stage, and it typically lasts just 1 to 5minutes. During this phase, your body hasn't fully relaxed, but your body and brain activities are starting to slow down. As you move into the ‘N2’ stage, your body enters a more subdued state. Your body temperature drops, muscles relax, and your breathing and heart rate also slows down.
The third stage of the cycle is ‘N3’ sleep, also known as deep sleep. During ‘N3’ your muscle tone, pulse, and breathing rate decreases, and your brain wave activity is at what is called the 'delta wave' frequency.
During the REM sleep cycle, the brain and body act very differently compared to other stages of sleep. REM sleep is the stage of sleep most associated with dreaming.
Research shows us just how important a good night's sleep is. Michigan State University's Sleep & Learning Lab conducted one of the largest sleep studies to date. Key researcher Associate, Professor Kimberley Fenn concluded that their, " research showed that sleep deprivation doubles the odds of making place keeping errors and triples the number of lapses in attention, which is startling."
Place keepers are defined as the ability to complete a series of steps without losing one's place – so that means concentration, focus, and cognitive ability. Michelle Stepan, MSU doctoral candidate, and Erik Altmann, Professor of Psychology (co-authors of this same study) warned "Sleep-deprived individuals need to exercise caution in absolutely everything that they do, and simply can't trust that they won't make costly errors. Oftentimes – like when behind the wheel of a car – these errors can have tragic consequences."
If you are suffering from sleep issues here are a few simple but practical steps you can embrace to help improve your sleep.
Deep breathing is a simple yet powerful technique. Deep breathing activates our vagus nerve, which in turn tells your brain - 'it's ok, relax'. Deep breathing engages the parasympathetic system, which is our "rest and digest" system.
Box breathing is a simple technique to bring in to your sleep routine to calm your mind and body –
Step 1 :Slowly exhale
Step 2: Slowly inhale through your nose to the count of four
Step 3: Hold your breath for another slow count of four
Step 4: Exhale through your mouth for four
You can also take this a step further by using your breath's rhythm as a visualisation tool. Imagine as you breathe in you see the word 'sleep' in your mind, and in your mind say ‘sleep’, then as you exhale, let go of any thoughts you are holding onto.
The progressive muscle relaxation technique of tensing and releasing different muscle groups, moving from your toes to your head, is also a powerful technique to signal to the body – it's time for rest.
Be creative with this technique and add in visualisation, as you move from the toes up the body, in your mind tell each part of you it's time for quiet, it's bedtime. Imagine each part of your body preparing for a state of deep calm.
Take this further and imagine that a comfy 'sleeping blanket' is being draped on each part of you, starting at your feet, it's warm and comfortable and soothing, and slowly moving up the legs, all the way up the torso, up to the neck. Each part of your body deeply relaxes and is comfortable.
Visualise yourself floating in water, relaxing and feeling light. As you float in the water, imagine you are washing the cares of the day off you and drifting into a place of calm, restful sleep. Or imagine you are floating on a cloud up into the skies, ready for a good night's sleep.Try the techniques based on self-hypnosis and self-meditation available on the Mindology App.
A Sleep Journal is also available on Mindology’s app which is a handy resource to help you build positive habits around sleep. Track your sleep patterns and learn what is working for you and what isn’t. FitBit’s are also a great way to track & analyse your sleep. Staff Treats members get 20% off all FitBit lines.
Unfortunately, it is so easy to slip into a bad sleep routine, so building a consistent positive habit is essential. Have a toolkit of relaxation strategies that work for you. If the thought of floating on a cloud is your worst nightmare, then find what does. Aim to create a sleep routine and habit that suits you your lifestyle and overall employee wellbeing
And if you have a bad night's sleep, tomorrow is a new day. Start again tweaking the routine. Do what works for you. This might be a case of trial and error. Be patient with yourself; building new habits can take time, but the benefits are worth it.
Staff Treats understands the benefits of investing in employee wellbeing and the wellness of your team. If you wish to find out how we can assist further with this, feel free to with us to find out more.