Why Sleep is Important for Workplace Wellbeing – 9 Key Tips

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Sleep is an essential function that allows our body and mind to recharge and to process what we’ve done in the day. It is fundamental to every aspect of our physical and mental health, allowing us to feel refreshed, alert, and function at our best. Plus, is there any better feeling than snuggling up in a nice cosy bed?

Now more than ever, you likely hear lots of experts bang on about why sleep is important for our overall health.

The main reason for this is that, unfortunately, many of us don’t get enough sleep or rest. In fact, according to a report from Nuffield Health, UK adults don’t value the importance of sleep, getting less than 6 hours of shut-eye on average. This is far below the recommended 7-8 hours.

This is especially true in work environments that can be physically, mentally and emotionally challenging. Stressful days, long shifts without enough breaks, and night shifts that go against the body clock can often lead to sleep deprivation and fatigue.

Whilst the individual impacts of sleep deprivation seem obvious, these can often bleed over into work, too. In turn, this can have disastrous effects on workplace wellbeing and employee morale.

So, in this blog post, we’ll explore why sleep is important for workplace wellbeing and what employers and employees can do to improve their sleep quality and quantity.

Why sleep is important and its benefits

We spend almost a third of our lives sleeping (or we should, at least). This may seem like a complete waste of time because when we sleep, our bodies are just doing… nothing, right? Well, this isn’t exactly true. Our bodies undertake many important biological processes while we sleep:

  • The brain stores new information and gets rid of toxic waste.
  • Nerve cells communicate and reorganise, which supports healthy brain function.
  • The body repairs cells, restores energy, and releases molecules like hormones and proteins.

These are some of the key reasons why sleep is important for our overall health. That being said, we don’t wake up each morning and suddenly exclaim “Wow, my nerve cells are so well organised this morning!”

So let’s look at why sleep is important on a practical level, and how it actually benefits us.

Sleep makes us less sleepy and more alert. That’s it. We’ve cracked it. We’ve figured out why sleep is important once and for all. Everyone go home. It’s over.

But seriously – it also enhances our cognitive abilities, such as memory, attention, decision-making, problem-solving, creativity and learning. These skills are essential for productive work. In high-intensity and dangerous working environments, being alert can be life-saving.

A woman demonstrating the importance of sleep in improving work performance, accessing a complicated digital display
This is you, changing the world after a great night of sleep.

You know when you’re so stressed that you want to just curl up in a ball and forget the world exists? Well, there’s a reason you feel that way. Sleep helps us regulate our emotions and cope with stress.

Additionally, it also reduces the risk of developing mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. A good night’s sleep can make us more positive, resilient and empathetic towards ourselves and others.

Sleep supports our immune system and helps us fight off infections. It also lowers the risk of developing chronic diseases such as obesity, type-2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

In other words, getting a solid night of sleep helps us to be as healthy as we can be and is one of the main reasons why sleep is important.

Work isn’t the only reason why sleep is important for wellbeing. Getting enough sleep also gives us the energy and motivation to pursue our hobbies, interests and relationships outside work.

It also helps us recover from the demands of work and prepare for the next day. Maintaining a positive work-life balance is crucial for positive physical and mental wellbeing.

The challenges of sleep for staff

Even if we understand why sleep is so important for our wellbeing, many workers face challenges in getting enough sleep or rest.

In addition to personal factors (we’ve all had the ‘Are You Still Watching?’ message on Netflix, right?), the work environment can create barriers to sleep for us.

Like it or not, work usually takes up just as much time in our day as sleeping does (or should). As wonderful as it would be to spend all day napping, we’ve still got things like bills to worry about – boring. So we need to find ways to address the challenges and barriers that we face in getting a good night’s sleep.

Many of us work shifts. More than 3.5 million UK adults, in fact.

Irregular shift patterns, particularly night and early morning shifts, can affect your body’s internal clock, making it harder to fall asleep and get restful sleep – but more on that later.

A good quality sleep includes periods of ‘deep sleep’. This is the kind of sleep that is particularly restful for your body and mind. Irregular shift work can reduce the amount of deep sleep that you get, meaning your body and mind don’t have enough time to fully restore themselves.

Working long hours can be exhausting. Even more so if you don’t add in sufficient breaks (we’re looking at you, desk lunch eaters!)

This fatigue and exhaustion can slowly accumulate, impairing your ability to do your job properly. In high-risk workplaces, this can even lead to serious accidents and injuries – another reason why sleep is important.

It’s important to factor commuting into your working hours, too. If you’re on a train or bus, or in a car, those are hours that you’re still not resting or engaging in re-energising activities. Even the classic public transport snooze isn’t going to give you much rest.

A woman asleep at her desk at work, illustrating why sleep is important
Getting snoozy at work could be a sign that you’re not getting enough sleep.

Working in a high-pressure environment with high demands, high stakes, and high consequences can cause stress and anxiety. This can affect your ability to fall asleep or stay asleep, with thoughts and worries running through your brain.

Dreaming is another aspect of why sleep is important, as this can be your brain’s way of processing events and feelings that you’ve experienced during the day.

Too much stress, however, can also affect the quality of your sleep, increasing the frequency of nightmares and anxiety dreams, meaning you’re not getting enough restful sleep.

Ever had the classic dream where all of your teeth fall out? It’s one of the most common anxiety dreams and is linked to having a worried mind. Your teeth are safe, but your mental wellbeing may not be at its best. So take some time to look at how your workload is affecting your sleep.

Everyone is different. A snowflake, if you will. But in all seriousness, there are a variety of personal factors that will affect how much sleep we get, as well as how much sleep we are able to get.

Any parent with a newborn baby will tell you the same thing – you sleep when the baby sleeps. Likewise, if you have a medical condition that affects your bladder (or you just have a particularly small one), you’ll likely be up a few times in the night.

There are a range of different factors that will affect your ability to get sleep. Some you’ll be able to control, others may simply always be a limiting factor. It’s helpful to establish what you’re working with before looking to improve sleep. And whilst we can’t overestimate the importance of sleep, it’s key to recognise that no one will have consistently great sleep.

There are also personal factors that can influence sleep quality and quantity, such as age, lifestyle habits, medical conditions, medication use, family responsibilities, social activities and environmental factors.

Sleep hygiene is an interesting area concerning the importance of sleep. It’s about looking at the environmental factors of your bedroom and how they might affect your rest.

Hands up if you’ve ever fallen asleep on the sofa. I see you. It’s easily done after a long, tiring day of work. But how many times have you nodded off on the sofa, woken up and thought ‘You know what? I’m really comfortable sleeping here. I’m going to sleep here.’?

Be honest. You’ll almost always choose your bed over the sofa. And that’s down to the importance of sleep hygiene – but more on that later.

What employers can do to support healthy sleeping for staff

Employers have a duty of care to ensure the health and safety of their employees at work. This is very broad, and whilst you may not be forced to tuck your staff in with a warm glass of milk at 9 pm, employers can still have an effect on the sleep of their staff.

It’s also a smart business move. We’ve discussed why sleep is important to an individual and a company, but there are also tips you as a business can implement to help your staff properly rest.

When looking at why sleep is important, you’ll often hear about circadian rhythm. Essentially, this is our internal clock that developed through evolution a long time before indoor lighting and nightclubs. It meant that we’d have regular daily routines that would match our weather and environment, and usually follow a 24-hour cycle. In other words, we’d wake up when it’s light and go to sleep when it’s dark.

Now, there are a variety of factors that can throw our circadian rhythm out of sync. Have you ever wondered why travelling to a different time zone can completely take it out of you? That’s your circadian rhythm trying to adjust to a new daylight cycle – your brain doesn’t care what time your phone says it is.

If your workplace runs shift schedules, try to keep them consistent for staff, and try to avoid long periods of night shifts. Mixing up shift schedules will throw a person’s circadian rhythm out of sync, and they’ll likely be more tired and less alert than usual.

Likewise, when a shift pattern changes, consider the importance of sleep in that employee’s routine and make adjustments to help their body clock adjust.

…Is a fancy way of saying that all workplaces should have nap pods.

Google famously installed nap pods at their main campus for their staff to use. This may seem like a bit of a novelty, but there can be a lot of benefits to a quick nap, including a boost in energy.

If you don’t have the space or a Google-budget for nap pods, you could offer staff flexible working to have a lie-in and work a little later, if they’ve had a poor night’s sleep, for example.

You can also offer education and awareness on the benefits of sleep in general – and highlight napping best practices, of course. Best Practices for Napping sounds like a CPD workshop that everyone should attend.

An AI generated image of a nap pod in a workplace, illustrating the importance of sleep to workplace wellbeing
Full disclosure, this one is AI-generated because not many workplace nap pods exist. It’s time for you to blaze a trail!

If you want staff to value a good night’s sleep, your company needs to value it, too. You need to outwardly demonstrate why sleep is important for the wellbeing of your staff.

Your organisation’s policies should focus on rewarding positive sleep behaviours (flexible working to sleep in, as we mentioned), and discouraging unhealthy sleep behaviours, such as excessive overtime, skipping breaks, and using caffeine to cope with tiredness.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t enjoy a morning cup of coffee, but it shouldn’t be a crutch for your workday.

Sleep hygiene might sound like you need to have a shower and put on deodorant before you go to bed. Don’t worry, it’s not that. When it comes to the importance of sleep for wellbeing, sleep hygiene is actually a very useful term that refers to your environment and behaviour around sleep.

The term covers issues like finding the right temperature and light levels for your sleep, as well as what kind of activities you should avoid before bed, and what to do if you can’t nod off.

Consider offering education and awareness around the importance of sleep hygiene as part of your wellbeing programme.

Not to sound presumptuous, but we can help you with that! Just click the banner below to find out more 👇

Sleep Wellbeing Workshops

Help your staff understand why sleep is important. Available online or face-to-face.

Sleep Wellbeing Workshops

Help your staff understand why sleep is important. Available online or face-to-face.

What employees can do to improve their sleep hygiene

Speaking of training your staff on why sleep is important, it’s also key to recognise that employees have a personal responsibility to ensure they get a good night’s sleep. You can offer education, awareness, and benefits to help staff improve their sleep, but, as the old saying goes: ‘You can take a horse to water, but you can’t make it stop watching Call the Midwife at 11 pm.

Jokes aside, there are a few key pieces of advice that you can offer to staff, through your own wellbeing campaigns and signposting, on the importance of sleep.

We talked about the beauty of circadian rhythm – and its role in the importance of sleep – earlier in this post. The easiest way to establish that rhythm is by sticking to a regular sleep and wake time. Yes – even on weekends and bank holidays. Your brain doesn’t get any annual leave!

We also mentioned the benefits of naps, but these do need to be limited. In other words, don’t nap for too long, and try not to nap too close to bedtime, either.

Nobody likes falling asleep in the back of a car. You wake up with a pain in your neck and find out you were only actually asleep for 10 minutes and the traffic hasn’t moved at all.

Our bodies need a comfortable environment to sleep. And that doesn’t just mean breaking out the fancy pillows and blankets. Consider the temperature of the room, the noise and light levels. Even having a sleep partner who rolls around a lot during the night can be disruptive to your sleep!

The goal is to create an environment focused solely on helping your body rest, and nothing more. It’s that wonderful phrase again, highlight the importance of sleep hygiene.

It sounds obvious, but many people won’t think about it. Caffeine and nicotine stimulate your body and keep you awake. Even a coffee in the afternoon can disrupt your sleep at night.

Whilst alcohol can make you feel sleepy and sedate, it can often disrupt your sleep cycle and lead to a poor night’s sleep. Plus, you can often mix alcohol with things like sugary drinks that will stimulate your body. To our knowledge, no one has even uttered the phrase ‘I think I’ll have a nice WKD before bed to help me nod off’ – and for good reason.

Eating also requires your body to do a lot of different things. So, whilst a meal might make you feel snoozy, your body will still be hard at work digesting all of those Maltesers you hid under your pillow if you’re prone to late-night snacking.

Bedtime is the one time of the day when we can truly relax and switch off from everything. So why do we insist on doing anything but? From watching TV, to checking emails, and scrolling on social media – all of these activities can contribute to poor sleep quality.

Instead, try reading a book, meditating, doing yoga, or writing a diary or journal – these are all great ways to unwind and start relaxing your mind before you fall asleep.

Despite trying, sometimes we may have other issues that prevent us from falling asleep. Issues like sleep apnoea, and even sleepwalking can disrupt sleep, and become a detriment to our physical wellbeing.

If you’re concerned about your sleep and energy levels, speak to your GP for further testing and advice. Don’t forget to speak to your employer to see if they can make accommodations to help improve your sleep levels. The world would be a better place if we all had personal nap pods.


Sleep affects every aspect of our health. It may not be immediately obvious why sleep is important to our general health and wellbeing, but there’s certainly a lot going on behind the scenes that highlights the importance of sleep.

Even if you only take one or two aspects of this post away, hopefully they help to improve your organisation, your sleep, and your health.

And if you’re still wondering why sleep is important to every aspect of your health, try going a night without sleep and doing …well, anything, with any level of competence.

If you’d like help in promoting the importance of sleep in your workplace, why not reach out to us to see how we can help? You can take a nap first, if you like. We’ll still be here.

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