Work stress steals sleep

By Yaldaz Sadakova | September 9, 2013 | Last updated on September 9, 2013
3 min read

This article originally appeared on

Workplace stress steals more than one hour of British workers’ sleep every night—a trend that is most pronounced among the country’s bankers, according to a new report.

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A survey by Travelodge, an operator of hotels in Europe, reveals that employees in the United Kingdom sleep, on average, only six hours and 27 minutes every night—which is one hour and 33 minutes below the recommended eight hours.

“There is an expectation in today’s society to fit more into our lives,” says Shakila Ahmed, Travelodge spokesperson. “The struggle to maintain a work/life balance is causing too many of us to trade in precious sleeping time in a bid to ensure we complete all of the jobs that we believe are expected of us.”

Three out of 10 British workers get less sleep now compared to a year ago, while one-fifth of employees consider sleep a luxury, according to the survey. The most frequent bedtime worry reported by respondents is heavy workload, followed by job dissatisfaction, feeling undervalued and irritating colleagues.

Professions As far as professions are concerned, bankers are the most sleep-deprived people in Britain. On average, they get just five hours and 50 minutes of shut-eye every night. And once they’re in bed, they spend one hour and 40 minutes worrying about issues such as heavy workloads and job security.

Britain’s second most sleep-deprived group is teachers, who sleep only six hours and four minutes every night. They’re followed by nurses, who sleep for six hours and 11 minutes and public servants, with six hours and 16 minutes. Pay freezes and pension cuts in the public sector are the reasons why these three groups experience work anxiety that interferes with their shut-eye, according to the report.

When it comes to seniority, the survey indicates that employees with higher ranks sleep longer and worry less about work. Of all the workers polled, senior managers get the most shut-eye, sleeping for seven hours and 30 minutes each night.

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Additionally, the survey shows that sleep deprivation often spills over to weekends among British employees. Nearly half of respondents say they don’t have time to sleep in on Saturday and Sunday.

Bad news Consistent sleep deprivation is bad news, says Stevie Williams, a sleep technician at the Edinburgh Sleep Centre. “Research shows that frequently not getting enough sleep has strong negative effects on health and performance,” he explains.

But apart from affecting individuals’ welfare, sleep deprivation also hurts the country’s employers, and, ultimately, the economy. Twenty-one percent of survey participants say they have called in sick for a day over the last 12 months due to being awake the night before fretting about work.

This means that 6.25 million sick days have been taken over the past year—up from 3.4 million sick days taken in 2008 due to lack of sleep, according to the report.

Relaxation techniques So how can employees get more sleep? Williams recommends relaxation techniques such as meditating, taking long showers or baths, and winding down just before bed by staying away from electronics. He also suggests avoiding caffeine.

“Having a sleep environment that is quiet, dark, away from TV, video games and computers, well ventilated and cool will help,” Williams says. However, he adds, there will always be people who are night owls—and, for them, fitting in to a nine-to-five lifestyle is challenging. On top of this, many people suffer from sleep disorders, he adds.

The Travelodge study surveyed 2,000 British workers.

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Yaldaz Sadakova