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World Sleep Day highlights Britain is one of the most exhausted nations

Of all the awareness days, World Sleep Day brings to the forefront one crucial fact about the British workforce we tend to neglect – that one in three UK workers suffer from sleeping problems.
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Looking to shine a light on World Sleep Day, Big Health unveiled some alarming statistics. Insufficient sleep is impacting some 5.4m businesses. Why? Because not catching up with those zzz’s leads to mental health problems, depression, a lack of concentration and decreased productivity.

It sounds familiar as the media has long claimed Britain’s long-hours working culture does no wonders for bosses and staff alike. In fact, similar research said Brits now clocked in 68 days more each year than they were contracted to. Some 46 per cent of respondents that took part suggested they had low concentration levels because of it, while 27 per cent were barely able to stay awake during the day.

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Speaking about World Sleep Day, Katy Tanner, director at Robert Half, told Real Business: “Daily stress factors at the office follow us home. A bad night’s sleep also kills positivity, which has huge business implications. Staff who are burned out, frustrated or unhappy tend to skip work. In contrast, well rested employees are more committed, healthy and productive. This, in turn, impacts the bottom line.”

Tanner added that now was the time to address the issue given our lack of productivity and the rising amount of individuals that reach the burnout stage. Indeed, Big Health revealed employees lost 8.5 days of work a year due to poor sleep as it led to sickness absence. This, in turn, costs the economy £100bn a year. Sleeping pills alone apparently cost the NHS £50m a year.

It’s not the first time our lack of sleep brought to light some astonishing facts. Take, for example, in 2016 when Aviva took a look at 13 countries. Of those, Britain contained the most exhausted workers. Some 44 per cent of British adults even felt too tired to exercise.

At the time, Neil Stanley, a sleep expert, claimed it had to do with culture. He said: “One reason why the UK has a problem with sleep is because we’ve created a 24-hour society more than any country in Europe. We have overnight television, supermarkets like Tesco are open all night and 10-15 years ago our government passed a law saying pubs could always stay open no matter the time.

“This is in stark contrast to Paris, which has been closing down music clubs in residential areas. In Switzerland it’s hard to get a meal past 20:00 and it’s forbidden to flush the toilet between midnight and 06:00 in some neighbourhoods. Places like Germany and Austria have shops close early. This makes it hard for Brits to switch off at night. We feel we should be functioning 24-hours a day, but we’re not a 24 hour country – it gets dark and cold here.

“If you’re paid 40 hours a week you should work 40 hours a week, but we are always connected – even though it’s last thing you should go before bed is work. The essence of the problem is that Brits see sleep as disposable – as the thing to do after you’ve done everything else. There is so much evidence that poor sleep is bad for many aspects of physical, mental and emotional health; the world would be a nicer place if we had more sleep – and that’s why we need World Sleep Day to shine a light on it.”

Image: Shutterstock

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About Author

Shané Schutte

Shané Schutte is a senior reporter at Real Business, with a particular specialism in employment and business law, human resources, information technology and sales/marketing.

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