Sleep health: how to sleep better while telecommuting



Find out how managing the fine line between work from home and work life makes sleep work worse.

In one look

  • Australia has recorded some of the longest working hours among full-time employees in OECD countries over the past two decades.
  • The direct and indirect costs of sleep deprivation in Australia are estimated at A $ 51 billion per year.
  • The federal government began to recognize the problem in 2018, and attention to the problem is increasing amid the challenges of remote and flexible working.

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By Caroline Zielinski

Sleep deprivation costs the economy A $ 14.4 billion in direct losses and A $ 36.6 billion in non-financial costs, such as loss of well-being.

The federal government recognized the scale of the problem in 2018, launching a full-scale sleep health awareness survey.

However, despite the resources allocated to the business community and its leaders to educate them on the benefits of a well-rested workforce, many sectors – including the chief accounting and finance officer – continue to bear the deprivation of money. sleep as a badge of honor.

Sleep health and the workplace

Lack of sleep affects some of the key cognitive functions we need to be productive and efficient, including critical thinking, memory and attention, says Professor Shantha Rajaratnam, associate director of the University’s School of Psychological Sciences. Monash and President of the Sleep Health Foundation.

“The result is that many aspects of our work-related functions and performance are impaired.

“We make poorer decisions, have a reduced ability to solve new and complex problems, process information and regulate our emotional responses to what is going on around us. “

While Australia is widely regarded as a relaxed and carefree nation, research into our changing work habits tells a different story.

Over the past two decades, the average number of full-time hours worked has increased significantly, making Australia one of the longest working hours among full-time employees in OECD countries .

Psychotherapist Dr Zoë Krupka, Senior Lecturer at the Cairnmillar Institute in Melbourne, has lived and worked all over the world and says Australian attitudes towards sleep in the workplace, especially in areas such as accounting , banking, finance and law are unhealthy.

“What I’ve noticed is that Australians have attitudes towards sleep similar to North America – it’s all this bravado not to sleep,†she says, “and we see this capacity distortion and that bravado around sleep-specific overwork.

“People seriously overestimate their abilities when they are tired,†says Krupka.

“People are often surprised by the tests they take when they are tired and driving – they don’t realize how distracted they are. “

Switch off for health

Deloitte has been among the workplaces behind the shift in attitude towards sleep. In October last year, Deloitte ran a campaign to raise awareness of the benefits of sleep by educating employees about the importance of good sleep hygiene and encouraging them to monitor their sleep patterns during a month.

Throughout the campaign, staff received information on acquiring good sleep habits, the importance of sleep, the impact of technology and other behavioral and lifestyle factors on sleep. , and the potential impacts of sleep on individual productivity.

Deloitte has also encouraged other companies to view sleep as a fundamental business issue, factoring in a good night’s rest in productivity incentives.

Companies that hope to rehabilitate their “always on†culture by injecting money into the booming “corporate wellness†industry, with its sleeping cabins and corporate meditation rooms, already worth A $ 61.6 million in Australia, will be disappointed.

The only way to combat sleep deprivation and overwork is to work less and physically turn off at the end of each work day.

This is especially important with the advent of remote and flexible work environments, where technology and work encroach on our personal lives.

“Having this pressure to meet demands for after-hours work makes secondment more difficult,†says Rebecca Mitchell, associate professor in the management department at Macquarie University.

“What organizations don’t understand is that if they want to get people great work and keep them there for the long haul, they have to allow them to take time off work – leave work, limit the†tele-pressure “- and stop seeing sleep as a” wimp “,” she said.

The cost of sleep deprivation

Deloitte, in partnership with the Sleep Health Foundation, estimated the direct and indirect costs of sleep deprivation at A $ 51 billion per year.

Jared Streatfeild, associate director of health economics and social policy at Deloitte Access Economics, says they arrived at the number using the cost of illness framework.

“We use this framework to comprehensively measure the cost of a particular condition, which we can then compare to the impact of other conditions and the costs of interventions to reduce the burden of a condition,” says Streatfeild.

The report team, which also included Rajaratnam, looked at the economic and health impacts of three particular sleep-related disorders: obstructive sleep apnea, insomnia, and restless leg syndrome, which collectively affect about one Australian. out of five.

The report then looked at the impact of sleep disorders on costs, such as absenteeism, early retirement, presenteeism, the need for informal care, fatigue-related accidents and premature mortality, as well as loss of quality of life.

“It is a challenge to objectively measure productivity in knowledge-based industries,†concedes Rajaratnam, “so we rely on measures such as situation-relevant measures or self-reported productivity estimates, peers or the use of surrogate measures such as the use of cognitive tests to see how much sleep deprivation impairs their aspects of cognitive function.

Well-being before wealth

While governments and businesses focus on the numbers, they are only part of the picture, experts say.

“Economists focus on lost profit and productivity,†Mitchell says, “but what we’re really talking about are real issues affecting real people due to excessive stress and lack of sleep.

“The government emphasizes cost efficiency and sleep as a diagnosable problem, but the reality is if you don’t detach from your job and sleep well, your quality of life will suffer,†she says. “You can face a lot of things if you have the ability to recover, and sleep is essential to that recovery process. “

Krupka stresses that “economic arguments don’t always make sense eitherâ€.

“There is plenty of evidence that working less, being less busy, and sleeping more are the best ways to actually be more creative, productive and efficient, but we continue to believe that only economically motivated programs will cost less.

“It’s culturally intolerable for us to be bored, to do nothing, but if we don’t rest and sleep we become a lot more responsive, and it becomes a lot harder for our bodies to tell the difference between this. that is urgent – everything becomes anxiety provoking.

“As the road signs say, only sleep cures fatigue,†she says.

7 ways to create a positive sleep culture

Expert advice for better sleep

  • Maintain a regular bedtime and wake-up time each day, even on weekends. Routine is the key.
  • Limit your screen time and give yourself an hour of “tech-free†buffering before bed.
  • Take care of your body – exercise every day and avoid alcohol to help you sleep.
  • Take care of your mind and try to solve any problems well before bedtime. If you still feel anxious or worried at bedtime, try gentle stretching, yoga, or mindfulness.
  • Keep your bedroom reserved for sleep – as much as possible avoid working, watching TV, or using your laptop in your bedroom.
  • If you wake up during the night and can’t fall back to sleep, get up and do something relaxing in the dark until you are sleepy again.
    Source: Dr Melinda Jackson, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, Monash University

Other financial costs of sleep deprivation

In addition to the costs incurred for the treatment of health problems due to sleep deprivation, other financial costs associated with sleep disturbances and related conditions amounted to A $ 13.4 billion in 2019-2020. A breakdown of some of these costs is presented below.

  • 7.5 billion Australian dollars: losses linked to presenteeism
  • 2.2 billion Australian dollars: losses linked to absenteeism
  • A $ 1 billion: reduction in employment
  • AU $ 0.3 billion: informal care costs
  • A $ 0.2 billion: costs of premature mortality
    Source: Foundation for Sleep Health

Self-assessment of sleep

If you answer “yes†to more than four of these questions, you may be getting sleep deprived.

  1. Do you feel tired when you wake up?
  2. Do you need more than 30 minutes to fall asleep at night?
  3. Do you wake up at night and have trouble falling back to sleep?
  4. Do you feel that your sleep affects your daytime functioning (alertness, work performance, etc.)?
  5. Have you or others noticed that you are more irritable or emotional?
  6. If you had not set an alarm, would you sleep after the wake time you set?
  7. Do you use over-the-counter sleeping pills or pills more than you would like?
  8. Do you snore heavily or suffer from sleep apnea?



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