Sleep Issues In The Corporate World

14/04/2016 10:40 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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Business man sleeping on the sofa in office

sleep issues

Do you really want to get ahead at work? Why not sleep your way to the top?

Yep, we said it. Only we mean it literally. As in, get your minds out of the gutter, people, we're talking about actual sleep -- something of which those in the corporate world apparently get far too little.

According to sleep specialist Dr Dev Banerjee of Integrated Sleep Health, while some occupations are known to cause sleep problems in workers (shift work being an obvious example), those who work in the corporate world face a unique set of issues that are often overlooked.

"Those who work in the CBD have a different fabric of sleep disorders that aren’t characterised as being a medical illness or disorder that needs hospital care," Banerjee told The Huffington Post Australia. "And the things I’m talking about are very much health and well-being issues, for example a lack of fitness, stress, a lack of sleep, weight gain causing snoring, disturbed sleep times because of long hours, unhealthy eating... I mean there are quite a lot of issues that are very common among corporate workers.

"I do see, in particular, a lot of weight gain and lack of exercise among our corporate clients.

"For many of them, it's about trying to find the time to exercise. They say they don’t have time to think about what they eat or calorie count and they don’t have time to go to the gym. It’s always 'I haven’t got time'.

"In actual fact, they probably do have time, but maybe not for the planning aspect. For many of them, charting out a timetable or plan really helps, that idea of 'okay, this is what I have to do'. Fitbits are also really helpful to give you objectives via feedback, which is really important."

corporate person relaxing

Here is a photo of a very alert man doing lots of work and definitely not sleeping on the job.

Busy schedules and bad eating aside, Banerjee says another issue is stress and, perhaps more importantly, how people deal with it.

"In the corporate world there's a lot of stress, and coming home with a lot of stress -- but not knowing how to manage it -- can impact sleep and cause insomnia," Banerjee said.

"I see that in clients all the time, very fractured and jittery sleep. We need to bring that stress response down in the evening time, otherwise it’s going to be very hard to effortlessly drift off to sleep.

"I think something else that is worth pointing it out is relaxation therapy is not a dirty word. For a lot of people they relax in the wrong way, such as drinking a lot of alcohol. That’s actually a problem we have with corporates.

"Instead, I would recommend a 'time out' as something that’s massively important. So, that decision to go for a run and not take your phone with you, so no one on this planet apart from a possum can contact you, send you a text, send you an email, ring your mobile or bother you.

"That relaxation therapy is so high in importance to help that sleep onset."

Odd hours (and long hours) can also play havoc with sleeping patterns, with Banerjee pointing out being 'seen' at the office after-hours does not necessarily equate to 'doing good work'.

"We see people all the time who are doing teleconferences to America at strange hours and not finishing until 2am, and then having to get up at 6am the next day," Banerjee said. "This sleep restriction is causing a lot of daytime tiredness and sleepiness, and at the end of the day, you can be present at work but not productive at work.

"We are getting a lot of tired people through the door who don't perhaps put the right emphasis on the importance of sleep and work patterns. Young folks, for example, tend to work long hours. Those who are at the bottom of their career ladder and want to impress. They work extremely long hours and, as a result, have a range of sleep deprivation issues.

"Middle aged men have more weight gain, obviously higher up in corporate world, might be working long hours but at the expense of nutrition and exercise. There is a higher rate of snoring in this group, and for women, stress and insomnia is very common.

"For the slightly older group, say 55-plus, who are at the top of the tree -- many of them have been in the corporate world for almost 30 years. In this group, there is a high prevalence of burn out."

Given the corporate world doesn't look like it will change dramatically any time soon, Banerjee says its important for its workers to learn how to manage the issues which may affect their health and sleep patterns.

"I can’t tell Australian global companies not to teleconference to America in the middle of the night," Banerjee said. "I can't stop that.

"Instead, it’s about being sensible and managing your well-being and preventing that from becoming ill health. It's a combination of nutrition, exercise, psychology, sleep awareness and sleep management. In other words, improving lifestyle, modifying behaviour, and accessing education."

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