Erica DeWald is an associate director in APCO’s Washington, D.C., office specializing in vaccines and communicating complex scientific issues.
Does my “early to rise” schedule make me a happier person? According to a new report, it just might. People who naturally wake up and go to bed early are generally more cheerful than those who stay up late. It’s a reminder of the many health benefits of sleep.
You’ve heard it all by now. A solid seven to nine hours of sleep a night will help you lose weight, improve your memory and may even lower your blood pressure. But how does one actually manage to sneak in those needed hours? You’re busy juggling work and family while trying to stay healthy by preparing meals at home and sneaking in the odd workout. Sleep has completely fallen off America’s health radar.
Think of a truly healthy lifestyle as being a three-legged stool: diet, exercise and sleep. We are bombarded with messaging on the first two legs. Commercials tell us about the latest “scientific breakthrough in weight loss” while daytime talk shows feature chefs offering healthy recipes that can be prepared in minutes. Behavior change, however, is a very tricky thing.
Perhaps the most effective change we’ve seen in recent years is employer-sponsored wellness programs that reward exercise and healthy eating. But there’s no mention of sleep. It remains the forgotten stepchild of workplace wellness programs, yet could arguably be the most important element of work productivity. Encouraging, and even rewarding, employees to get a proper night’s rest could result in more efficient and creative employees. More efficient and creative employees need less time to do more and therefore also have more time at home, focused on home. And what does that bring? A magical notion we’ve all dreamed of: work-life balance.
It’s time for a company to take a chance on sleep. Add it into your wellness program and see what happens. You don’t need to add a napping room; just reward sleep the same way you reward eating a salad or spending 30 minutes on an elliptical machine. In this economy, it’s a bit of a gamble with a potentially huge return. Well-rested employees just might come up with your next big business plan. Come on, let’s find out just how much sleep matters.
Full disclosure: I am neither a morning person nor a night owl. I enjoy a solid nine hours of sleep whenever possible and feel no need to join in the one-upmanship around who was up the latest last night. That said, I never actually get nine hours of sleep (except on Sundays) and in fact rise at 5:30 AM to get in a workout before heading into the office.