A Sleepless Society
FEATURING DR. CHARLES SAMUELS – CENTRE FOR SLEEP AND HUMAN PERFORMANCE BY JACQUIE GAGLIONE
I was sitting in bed the other night watching television. It was only 9:30 pm, but I was fighting to keep my eyes open and decided to succumb to the pressure. I shut off the TV, closed my blind, turned off the light and pulled the covers over me. I promptly fell asleep and didn’t wake until 7:00 am, the next morning. I felt rested and I was laser focused. Sleep enabled me to get through almost everything on my list for the day.
ON DAYS WHEN I AM TIRED, I FEEL LIKE I SPEND MORE TIME STARING AT MY COMPUTER SCREEN, often feeling overwhelmed and not knowing where to start. I seem to lack the ability to make a plan and execute on it. I will often procrastinate and either wander, check social media or be distracted by tasks or projects that are easy, but not important.
“We are a sleepless society,” says Dr. Charles Samuels at the Centre for Sleep and Human Performance in Calgary, Alberta, “the bottom line is that sleep health is important for individual health and productivity. However sleep isn’t even something considered by most individuals for health or productivity. When we need to do more, the one thing given up is sleep for productivity, and we then reach for more coffee.”
With cell phones and tablets linking us to work and people all the time, our human mind lacks the quiet time it so deserves. It’s so easy to just quickly check email, or text someone. Our brain never seems to shut off. Our phones come to bed with us, so we are always attached to them. Even on vacation, we seem to feel we need to be available. I will often get
an auto-response from someone stating that they are on vacation and will be checking email sporadically. We never make time to completely disconnect. This constant feeling of connection and on- ness is exhausting.
When asked about the idea of on-ness Dr. Samuels states, “People don’t pay attention to their general sleep health and the down- stream consequences are issues from productivity to actual health concerns. Organizations need to promote the importance of sleep. Having a no nap policy, which is normal in North America, makes no sense. When people are tired they are not productive and their cognitive function is impaired when they are fatigued. The ability to tend to tasks is inhibited. You start to see signs such as people wandering around the office, irritability, social media surfing and increased caffeine intake. These are all indications that people are too tired. Human beings can’t stay awake all day, that’s not what we are built to do.”
FROM THIS, IT IS SAFE TO SAY WE ARE A CULTURE OF PEOPLE WHO ARE OVER-TIRED. As a society, we are moving to a work harder, all the time mentality. We are demanding more and more from employees who are feeling the stress. However, we are looking at everything from the wrong angle. Productivity doesn’t increase the more hours you work. Instead we need to look at tasks and ask how we can accomplish them most effectively. We often tend to be more productive in the morning, with accomplishment waning throughout the afternoon. It’s why I always scheduled Language Arts and Math the first two blocks when I was teaching. Asking students to write and complete mathematical problems at 2:00 pm didn’t yield as good results. So, how can we create the same focus and motivation in the afternoon when we are at a naturally lower point in our body rhythms? One way is to take a nap in the afternoon so we wake up refreshed and ready to tackle the hard challenges.
The Energy Pod by Metronaps is CompuVision’s newest Disrup- tive Technology investment. Designed to give you a 20 minute nap, it slowly facilitates the relaxed state and afterwards, slowly brings you back out of it.
According to a Statistics Canada Study released in 2017, about 1 out of every 3 of adults does not get enough sleep and Canadians are getting about an hour less sleep than in 2005. (http://www.stat- can.gc.ca/pub/82-003-x/2017009/article/54857-eng.htm) This makes sense given that the first iPhone was released in 2007 which likely contributed to our downward sleep spiral. I love my iPhone; it’s given me an incredible amount of flexibility in terms of how and where I work. But I’ve had to manage it, rather than let it manage me. I use Do Not Disturb during the evenings, when I go to sleep or when I need to focus.
A company culture that encourages work-life blend is essential. Employees need to take a restorative lunch break and be free to move around.
SO WHAT DOES THE DOCTOR THINK? I asked Dr. Samuels about the future of sleep and what part technology plays:
“We are in a constant state of arousal due to the technology around us, and this inhibits the human’s actual ability to sleep. Even though we know this, what we are developing now are work- arounds to still use our technology. Because we are humans we want to keep the technology but not change the behavior. If we aren’t careful, parents will have children that will not be able to pick up a pencil. We have to teach society to use technology as a tool.”
The other night I slept poorly, so the following afternoon I booked my session for 2:00 pm in the Energy Pod at CompuVision. Walking into the already darkened room immediately calmed me and put me at ease. Closing the door and seeing the relative darkness, save a few candles and a soothing purple light, helped me relax and opened my mind to trying this. I have never napped at work; it has always been taboo. I think getting past that mental block is the hardest part of the process. Allowing yourself to nap seems to be a confrontational idea within one’s self. I climbed onto the futuristic looking chaise lounger and reclined it. Then reclined it some more. Spinning the cover to block out the little light shining on my face, I pressed the magic green button and settled in. The music started playing; soothing and quiet like I would hear in a yoga studio. I started feeling the back heat up slightly and then the gentle vibrations lulling me to shut my eyes. With my eyes closed and my mind focusing on some deep breaths, I felt the stress release and my body relax as I drifted into a light sleep. 20 minutes later, the music started playing a bit louder and the lights brightened slightly to bring me out of my slumber. The chair returned to its just slightly reclined position and I arose. The whole thing took less than half an hour, yet, I felt like I had gained so much more in terms of clarity for the rest of my day. Give sleeping at work a try, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.