Sleep Challenge

How a Team Sleep Challenge Will Change Your Productivity

Everyone knows that a good night’s sleep is a necessity in order to function well in the workplace, but even if you’re trying your best to practice good sleep hygiene, only one well-rested team member might not be enough.

Dr. Dominic Munafo, the Chief Medical Officer of BetterNight, a company that provides comprehensive care for those with sleep apnea. With 25 years of experience in the realm of sleep disorders, particularly sleep breathing disorders, Dr. Munafo has some tips about why your team needs to focus on sleeping and how you might be able to make your current sleep schedule a little better.

You’ll even get some ideas for a team sleep challenge that will leave you recharged, productive, and ready to innovate.

Why sleep?

Everyone knows from personal experience that sleep is of the utmost importance. But if you think you can cut corners when it comes to your siestas, you’re wrong. Poor sleep hygiene affects everything from one’s immediate relationships to their work performance or creativity.

“At some point, we have all experienced sleep deprivation,” Dr. Munafo says, and we all know the feeling of being mentally blocked. “I think one of the most interesting things I have learned is that the ability to think creatively diminishes during the day. Research has shown that while a cup of coffee may improve alertness in the afternoon, the only thing that restores creativity is sleep.”

“Adequate quantity and quality sleep is an essential foundation for all relationships,” Dr. Munafo says. “Sleep is absolutely necessary for good physical, emotional and psychological health.” This is especially the case with those who are talking over high-stress topics with people they’re close to – in fact, inflammatory markers are shown to be elevated in times of sleep-deprived marital conflict.

“Through all the ups and downs of life, sleep provides the crucial support for human resilience. Without adequate sleep, tempers flare, creativity is compromised, undue risks are taken and empathy is reduced. All of these make for much more challenging personal relationships.”

Getting a good night’s sleep, Dr. Munafo continues, is at the core of productivity.

“Many of us have experienced the feeling of being at work but not being able to perform at our best. This is referred to as presenteeism. You’re working at a fraction of your potential due to physical or mental limitations.”

“One of the most common causes of presenteeism,” Dr. Munafo adds, “is sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation can be due to a lack of opportunity for adequate sleep (ie. going to bed too late or awakening too early) or a sleep disorder such as obstructive sleep apnea or insomnia. By treating underlying sleep disorders and practicing good sleep hygiene an employee is less likely to manifest presenteeism and will be best able to perform at a high level both physically and mentally.”

Getting the most out of bedtime

There are many tips and tricks to getting a great night’s sleep that many already know, or perhaps a sleep challenge that you’ve already undertaken, such as limiting electronic use, or not eating too close to bedtime. But there are three key mistakes that you and your team might be making that unintentionally undo the hard work you’ve put in so far.

“One of the biggest challenges facing modern society is the concept of ‘social jet lag’,” Dr. Munafo says. “It refers to the practice of compromising one’s sleep opportunity during the working portion of the week and then attempting to make up for it by “sleeping in” during off days.”

And while it might feel good at the moment to catch up on sleep, it could be causing issues as the days go by.

“The practical effect is that the body feels like it is going back and forth between different time zones,” Dr. Munafo explains. “As a result, the synchronization of bodily functions is compromised and the ability to quickly fall asleep and wake up refreshed is reduced. And, most importantly, the extra sleep obtained on the off days does not make up for the stress placed on the body due to sleep deprivation during the workweek.”

Another issue that piles on top of social jet lag is the issue of sleeping for a healthy duration at an unhealthy time.

“Perhaps the most important sleep hygiene practice is getting morning light,” Dr. Munafo explains. “[It] sets the body’s internal clock and helps synchronize all bodily functions.” In 2017, a study published in Sleep Health notes that of the 109 office workers who logged their sleep habits, those who had higher levels of circadian-effective light in the mornings experienced reduced depression and increased sleep quality.

Finally, it’s very important to make sure that each one of your team members is healthy and sound, as issues with sleeping could at times indicate something more. Dr. Munafo notes that if you have long-term issues with sleeping, you might be suffering from a sleep disorder like sleep apnea or insomnia. If your sleep troubles are impacting your work and relationships, take some time to see a doctor and make sure everything is in order.

Your personalized team sleep challenge

Whereas clickbait might tell you that there’s one particular kind of sleep challenge that will magically cure you of your snoozing woes, medical advice says differently – in fact, everyone’s sleep schedules are so different that Dr. Munafo hesitates to even enforce the “eight-hours of sleep per night” rule. Some might need more sleep, like someone who goes to bed late and wakes up early, but some with sleep disorders like insomnia might need less (however, if you do have a sleep disorder, be sure to wait for your doctor’s advice before making any changes to your sleep schedule).

“Inadequate time in bed is probably one of the most significant issues that our society faces right now in the Western world,” Dr. Munafo notes.

While seven to nine hours of sleep per night is ideal for most non-disordered sleepers, a Gallup report from 2013 shows that 40% of Americans aren’t getting enough sleep, clocking in at 6.8 hours per night. As a result, if you and your team are all deprived-yet-otherwise-healthy sleepers, it’s best to focus on the things you can change instead of the things you can’t by increasing your sleep time by small increments and making sure those little modifications stick.

“Society more or less tends to determine your wakeup time when you’re in the workforce,” Dr. Munafo explains. “What tends to be more in our control are the bedtimes. The best goals for those without a sleep disorder are to increase sleep opportunities, which means increasing time in bed. An increase of just 15 min a day adds up to nearly 2 additional hours a week. Another challenge is to regularize wake-up times and bedtimes. The body craves routine and this challenge helps mitigate the detrimental effects of social jet lag.”

“The ideal sleep challenge isn’t just a compromise between your sleep habits and my sleep habits,” Dr. Munafo concludes. “The conversation should focus on the importance of sleep, how the individuals have dealt with that in their lives, and how they can work to improve what they’re doing.”

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