There is growing risk that companies’ perceptions of their employees’ spare capacity are disconnected from the true position." (Conrad Schmidt, Global Research Officer, CEB) 

After four years of austerity it is perhaps no surprise that stress has displaced chronic illness and musculo-skeletal aches and pains as the number one cause of long-terms sickness in the UK. Difficult economic times mean increased anxiety and stress around workload, job security and money worries.

According to the 2012 CIPD Absence Management survey in the preceding 12 months 40% of workers reported an increase in stress levels. The most common reasons were given as workload, management style, non-work stresses as well as relationships at work. 

The numbers reporting workload as a problem grew from 48% in 2011 to 57% in 2012. This is similar to findings from a study conducted by business advisory firm CEB back in November with revealed that fifty five percent of employees said they cannot handle the stress of their job much longer. 

But where does sleep deprivation fit in?

Think for a moment. I am sure we can all recall a time when we’ve been tired and we’ve snapped too easily.

It is human nature. A case study from policing the Montreal tuition fee riots suggested that officers found it more difficult to control their emotions, deal with conflict, perceive what was happening around them and respond appropriately after long periods on duty, in a stressful situation and with little sleep. 

What evidence is there for the link between sleep deprivation and stress? 

When you get a moment later, take a look at the CIPD’s Stress and Mental Health at Work factsheet. Take a look at their ‘signs of stress.’ It’s virtually a carbon copy of any factsheet entitled signs of sleep deprivation. But I’ll not rest my case just yet. 

Back in 2008 the Sleep Council released the results of a survey revealing that over half of us regularly feel so tired at work we’d rather go home and 1 in 8 feel this way 3 to 4 times a week. Around the same time a Samaritans survey showed that 1 in 3 people are so wound up by their job they cannot sleep properly. 

In March 2010 we ran our online assessment for 209 respondents at the Vitality Show. We found that whilst average sleep duration was an acceptable 7 hours and 15 minutes a night; seventy six percent of respondents did not feel as though they achieve enough sleep. The main reasons given were; personal worries and stresses (63% of the 76%), work worries (50%) and not enough time available to sleep (48%). 

So why should you combine a programme to tackle stress and sleep deprivation? 

Hopefully we’ve provided sufficient statistical and logical evidence to establish the symbiotic interdependence between sleep deprivation and stress. We’re not saying that all stress is caused by sleep deprivation or that all sleep deprivation is caused by stress. That would be wrong. 

What we do ascertain is programmes that help employees achieve sufficient good quality sleep will be extremely valuable in helping to prevent stress. 

This blog post is an extract from the comprehensive white paper "How and why should you tackle the growing issues of stress, burnout and sleep deprivation in staff?" which you can download here.

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