Sleeping on the job

Updated: Nov 19, 2019

“I struggle to sleep, so all night the emails ping and I’ll get up every hour and answer. There are people who thrive on it, and people who struggle with it. I thrive on it still.” - Indra Nooyi, chief executive at PepsiCo, sleeps four hours per night.

Sound familiar? It’s all over the news right now, and has been for quite some time. Australia officially has a sleep problem, and a simple google search on “Australian sleep statistics” will ply you with a thick flood of links to back the fact.

According to a recent study conducted by the Sleep Health Foundation of Australia, inadequate sleep affects 33-45% of adults, while the average period of sleep was measured at seven hours per night.

Of those measured, 12% clocked up sleep of less than five and a half hours per night, of which 76% reported frequent daytime impairment such as drowsiness, fatigue and being less attentive in the workplace.

Lack of sleep doesn’t just relate to those working long hours, but the residual medical implications that can become a result of which. Insomnia, sleep apnoea, depression, night paralysis, hypnic jerks, periodic limb movement, jet lag, snoring, partner disturbance and stress all contribute to lack of sleep for a great portion of the population, which can affect their health in more ways than one.

"There is a false belief shared by a lot of us that sleep is a waste of time and that we can get away with less than we really need, but the truth is people who cut corners with their sleep function below their best. They are not as mentally sharp, as vigilant, as attentive or as patient as they would otherwise be" says David Hillman, director of the Sleep Health Foundation in Melbourne.

At the time of publication, the study reported that 17% missed a day of work due to “feeling sleepy”, another 17% fell asleep on the job, and 29% were reported to have made mistakes on the job due to fatigue caused by lack of z’s.

Simply put – sleep deprivation causes employees to decrease their work productivity. Alarmingly, it’s not just their career they are putting in danger, but their lives. Every month, 29% of people report feeling drowsy while they are driving, 10% have admitted to falling asleep at the wheel, and 5% have actually resulted in having a traffic accident!

With the trend formation of sleep tracking, we are getting further away from natural remedies and further into toying with technology; some people even resorting to tucking a device under the pillow to create data records to reflect upon. While this may tell us how much we have slept, it also gives us false information on how we should feel when we wake.

Now that we know the problem though, what is the solution?

Dr. David Cunnington, co-founder of Sleep Hub suggests in a recent article in The Financial Review, that factors such as diet, exercise, and mental health are also contributing factors for tiredness, while our fast-paced lives and desire to keep up in the ‘rat-race’, are key drivers for stress and anxiety causing insomnia and related depression.

While Cunnington mentions half a dozen solutions that may aid in sleep, we also have one of our own - the sleep pod. The sleep or ‘energy pod’ as it sometimes referred, is effectively a bed in the office that allows the user to quickly rejuvenate, becoming more productive personally and professionally. While we know you can try one over at Virgin Gym in Melbourne or Sydney CBD, you can now also follow in the footsteps of other global leaders like Google, Apple, Facebook, J&J, Mercedes and PWC by installing one in the privacy of your own office, and see the benefits of a healthier workplace come to wake.

The benefits of power-napping aren’t news to us either, but studies from the likes of Harvard and Nasa conclude a 30% increase in alertness and efficiency post kip; expansion of memory from 18% - 35%, boost in self-confidence and task performance levels, decrease in the likelihood of cardiovascular disease by 37%, and are also reported as an effective way to cope with stress.

If that’s not quite in the budget however, suggestions such as offering employees in-house meditation, yoga, fitness classes, quality food and drinks, scented oils, better lighting, ergonomically designed furniture are other great ways to show your employees you’re concerned about their wellbeing whilst encouraging better working conditions.

Before you go to bed tonight, perhaps take a little last bit of advice from Cunnington, learn to respect the cycle of sleep, and get back to the basics of our predecessors. Switch off your electronic devices, stop working and eating at least two hours before you go to bed, engage in some light physical activity like a walk, dial down the caffeine, take five minutes out to focus on breathing, and perhaps indulge in a cup of tea or a warm bath to induce those feelings of total relaxation.

Leave the day behind, and commit to sleep.

Wishes in Wellness,

The Balance Team


Financial Review:

Huffington Post:

Sleep Hub:

Sleep Health Foundation:

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