Employees missing just one day of work due to a bad night’s sleep could cost the UK economy £4 billion annually. That’s the stark warning from sleep specialist James Higgins, who has revealed that if all the nation’s employees took a sick day once a month due to sleep deprivation, the total average cost to the UK economy could reach a lofty £4,238,035,100.
James, CEO of Ethical Bedding, the UK’s only BCorp-accredited sustainable bedding company, explains: “When we factor in the UK’s workforce size and the daily average salary, and then calculate the potential impact of every employee taking just one sick day per month, the findings are nothing short of startling.
“With poor sleep rapidly becoming a primary factor in poor physical health, the risk of employees taking a day off to combat the physical side effects of a restless night is increasing.
“Although it isn’t always clear what causes disrupted sleep, it is often linked to stress and anxiety stemming from a poor sleeping environment or various lifestyle factors, including work, travel, and excessive caffeine or alcohol consumption,” says James.
“As we approach the autumn months, with summer holidays fading into distant memory, the potential for increased stress looms as workloads rise and daily routines become more hectic,” says James. “Additionally, with the festive season approaching and the added costs of heating our homes, financial pressures may intensify, leading to more anxiety.
“In the UK, the total economic cost of sick leave lost productivity due to worklessness, informal caregiving, and health-related productivity losses is estimated to be over £100 billion annually.
“If we could try to combat bad sleep and avoid missing work, we could each play a part in improving this overall figure, even by making small changes. However, if the problem persists, you should always seek the advice of a medical professional.”
Eight tips for reducing sleep anxiety
- Daily exercise
Exercise has long been proven to improve mood and reduce feelings of depression, stress, and, importantly, anxiety. If you’re experiencing anxiety falling asleep, consider introducing exercise into your daily routine, whether in the morning before work, during your lunch break, or in the late afternoon. Moving throughout the day can also help improve your circadian rhythm if bad anxiety at night has led to an erratic sleep pattern.
- Practise meditation before bed
Rather than exercising just before bed, it can be helpful to practice meditation instead. Not only does this help increase melatonin and serotonin (the hormone that controls your mood, often considered the ‘happy hormone’), but it’s also an effective way to control your breathing, leading to significant reductions in nighttime anxiety.
If it helps, you can also try relaxing yoga poses to prepare your body for sleep, such as the popular and easily recognisable butterfly pose.
- Limit caffeine or alcohol intake
Consuming too much caffeine throughout the day or having it too late in the evening can increase your chances of experiencing nighttime anxiety, harming the quality and quantity of sleep you get.
The simple explanation for this is that caffeine is a stimulant, so your mind is more likely to remain active as you’re trying to drift off. The same thinking should also be applied to alcohol; consuming too much before bed can increase your heart rate and keep you awake.
- No heavy meals close to bedtime
Just as you should limit caffeine consumption before bed, you should also avoid eating too late in the evening. Eating prompts your digestive muscles to keep working when they should be resting, which can leave your mind and body feeling energised.
However, if you are feeling hungry before bed, opt for a snack that’s high in protein and fat to keep your blood sugar stable throughout the night. Don’t avoid eating completely, as this may further trigger stress and anxiety.
- Soak up the morning sun
Whether going for a morning stroll before work or taking the dog for an early morning walk, spending time soaking up the sun can enhance sleep quality when you return to bed at night.
When you’re sitting in the sun, your body produces serotonin, converted to melatonin as you sleep. The more time you spend enjoying the morning sunshine, the better your body becomes at controlling melatonin levels. As a result, you may begin to see reductions in nighttime anxiety.
In the winter, we recommend investing in a sun lamp, also known as a light box, which mimics outdoor light. They can give you a fantastic mood boost during the dark winter months.
- Limit power naps to 20 minutes
A quick power nap can be extremely beneficial in boosting alertness, especially if you’re feeling a little lethargic throughout the day. However, it’s important to ensure you’re not sleeping for more than 20 minutes at a time to get the full benefit from your nap.
“Lying for longer than 20 minutes can mean you wake during a deeper sleep cycle and risk feeling drowsier and groggier than before. This interrupted sleep cycle can impact your mood and trigger sleep anxiety when you finally settle down for the night,” says James.
- Consider replacing your current pillows
“If you’re suffering from poor sleep quality or sleep anxiety, your pillows could have a bigger impact than you realise. You may well find that your sleep struggles and stresses are reduced by choosing the right bedding. Consider whether your current pillows provide the right neck support. If you’re a back sleeper, you will want to opt for a soft, feather-style pillow. A contoured pillow that wraps around your shoulders may work best for side sleepers.”
- Go for a breathable duvet
Difficulty sleeping can result in being too warm at night, causing your body to overheat and struggle to settle, which can often lead to worry and panic, sometimes spiralling into anxiety. So, it’s crucial to choose the correct duvet tog for comfort.
A tog of five would be ideal during warmer days, and anything between eight and 12 togs in the winter. Not only will cool bedding and a breathable duvet better regulate body temperature, but a relaxed bedroom environment can also help reduce stress levels and calm your sleep anxiety.