Margaret Thatcher is famously reported to have slept for only four hours a night. As Prime Minister, and responsible for a country with a population of 57.2 million in 1990, I can only applaud her. How did she do it?
There’s a lot of debate around the power and impact of sleep. On the one hand, getting a good night’s rest is cited as the key to success. Endless research tells us that the average adult needs approximately 6-8 hours of shut eye each night. I for one would not disagree – certainly not when the dreaded alarm clock rings.
On the other hand, in today’s world sleep is sometimes considered a weakness. It’s not uncommon to hear someone proudly mention they’re running on ‘just a few hours rest’ or that before they’ve stepped foot in the office at 8:00am, they’ve already attended their regular tennis lesson, breakfast meeting and a few conference calls, and enjoyed a social function the evening before.
The Business Case
While there’s no way to say the number of hours required for every individual, one thing is clear: everyone needs sleep.
Sleep is our body’s way of recharging. It’s absolutely crucial in providing us with energy, and fundamental to our health and wellbeing. No one can argue against the fact that sleep makes us feel better, more alert, energetic and happier. It also helps us to function better and make decisions – which is especially important at work.
Sleep is as essential as eating and drinking. It has an impact on both too: Too little can leave us forgetful, exhausted and in search of energy, which can lead us to rely on sugary foods and drinks for a short-term fix. It can also affect our health, with links to diabetes and high blood pressure.
So the business case for sleep is clear. While there’s no hard and fast rule for hours, we must get enough sleep to wake up feeling refreshed.
For families, parents and carers, this may mean planning further ahead with household chores and routine where possible, and taking a little time back to enjoy some ‘me time’.
For employees, and especially working families, striking the right balance between work and personal commitments is key, from leaving work on time to turning off laptops and mobile phones in the evening. The results of which will enable us to focus on our wellbeing, and support us to be productive, focused and performing when required.
As employers, we have the opportunity to set a positive culture of work/life balance. Through encouraging our employees to bring their whole selves to work we’re able to understand the pressure points linking to sleep deprivation and where we can provide supports and flexibility to give some breathing space. The results of which is a great employee whose reaching their potential and able to deliver great results for our organisations.