Sleeping for Success: The Science Behind Sleep and Performance
Another successful Soma event this month, and this time at a new, larger, central London location. Previous events focused on stress and mindfulness at work. This time, we decided to focus on one of the core impacts on wellbeing, our natural ability and regenerating superpower: sleep.
The Science Behind Sleep and Performance
Our guest speaker, Professor Adrian Williams, explored this topic and delivered an engaging presentation to an intimate group of HR and Wellbeing executives.
Professor Williams is a founding member of the Sleep Section of the Royal Society of Medicine and is one of Europe’s few recognised Somnologists, as well as having been awarded the UK’s first Chair in Sleep Medicine. But most importantly, he sits on Soma’s advisory board to help us understand the complexities of sleep, its effect on stress and employee wellbeing. He shared his knowledge about this matter with Soma’s guests at WeWork Mansion House.
One of his main points is that, although there is a lot of research on sleep, we still don’t know much about it! We do know that all animals need it and that without it we will become very ill, and if we are consistently denied sleep then we will die. However the reasons why we do are still being discovered. Over the course of his talk Professor Williams shared some fascinating insights into this, and answered a variety of questions from a highly engaged audience after the talk had ended.
Here are the Soma Team’s favorite takeaways:
1. Sleep is more important than being physically fit.
We all know the importance of sleep – it serves the most important vital function in our body, it helps us to relax and withdraw from the stressful environment.
A weekly dose of exercise is one of the best ways to deal with stress, being a crucial element of increasing our wellbeing, but we shouldn’t underestimate the influence of a good rest and the recovery of our bodies and minds. Professor Williams pointed out that sleep helps us to get rid of negative “stuff” which accumulates in our bodies during the day. In the science world, this process is called a “homeostatic effect of sleep”, an easy to remember phrase to share whilst sipping your sleepy morning coffee with colleagues!
2. Our bodies require 8 hours (ish) of sleep on average to fully recover.
Our favourite study was conducted on a group of people who were sent to a holiday where they could sleep for how long the wished. It turned out that they slept on average, a very specific 8.1 hours per day. We very much wished we had taken part in this study and feel that more supporting evidence and further research is needed…
3. Driving sleep-deprived can be as bad as driving under the influence of alcohol.
It turns out that being awake for more than 16 hours can be as bad as driving under the influence of the alcohol in terms of concentration and focus! As the time of being awake gets longer, our ability to perform decreases. This is obviously very important in safety critical industries such as offshore oil rigs or transportation, yet it also impacts office workers and their productivity levels.
See the highlights video:
In the usual Soma way, we played a topical game to break the metaphoric ice. This time we played ‘Sheep 4 Sleep’.
We have all heard of counting sheep to get to sleep, but does it really work for you? We asked the guests to talk about their version of ‘Sheep 4 Sleep’. The room was buzzing with ideas and advice on the best way to nod off, we picked up a few hints and tips ourselves. Apparently it is all about Radio 4, Desert Island Disks and self-hypnosis.
The room was filled with conversations on sleep and how lack thereof affects performance, productivity and employee engagement in the workplace. From both a personal and professional point of view. The team were involved in some really stimulating conversations around sleep and how it impacts the workplace.
We would like to thank all attendees for coming and we are looking forward to hosting you again soon.
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