Culture Of Care: September Wellness Month Focus, Sleep

Updated: Sep 23, 2019

Arianna Huffington Tells Australia We Need More Sleep. Pictured: Book Tour Event At Sydney Opera House's Utzon Room

We often get asked what we do at WOW? In essence our focus is on 2 things. 'Well' communities with a particular focus on workplace building populations and, First Responder Crisis support. You may have noticed we provide considerable crisis support to women and children impacted by Domestic and Family Abuse and Workplace Sexual Harassment. But that's not all we do.... Chaplaincy is about human care. Being there for someone. No matter the issue. For example, grief and loss will impact us all at some stage in our lives, from employment loss, financial loss, relationship loss and end of life. I'm sure you can think of others. None of us escapes life's ups and downs.

We have found connection is critical to surviving and thriving and even to post traumatic growth. That's why we concentrate our services on building community and our building wellness initiatives enables the presence necessary to support our community when they need someone to talk with. We work within the framework of the social determinants of health. Which bring us to staying well and sleep......

Some years ago I facilitated Arianna Huffington's invitation to speak at the Sydney Opera House, actually it ended up being a VIP lunch in the Utzon Room at the Opera House and then an evening talk at Carriage Works in partnership with the Sydney Opera House. Quick back story: the Opera House was fully booked so we needed a co-partner. The event sold out in hours of going on sale. It would seem we all needed to be told we need more sleep. Not much appears to have changed, we still need to be encouraged to practice self care and that means downing tools and ensuring we get adequate sleep.

Workplaces take note: This is despite a Deloitte study that finds sleep is a business issue. Sure, getting a good night’s sleep increases well-being, but it can also boost productivity and creativity and help foster innovation. It even talks to the mind, body, spirit connection, with positive ethical behaviours, willpower and grit, positive outlooks and emotionally stable sitting firmly in the spiritual benefits of sleep.

WOW is a participant in the Global Wellness Institute's Moonshot Calendar, it's a monthly wellness program. It's all about prevention. We take this program to building communities, enabling them to encourage a wellness campaign where large populations gather. We support this with a month long speaker program that builds out a culture of community.

WOW's wellness program works within the framework of the Global Wellness Institute that works to eradicate preventable, chronic diseases by inciting multi-level action and collaboration among the oft-siloed forces all working to build a healthier world. It's a call to action to create healthier cultures within companies and workplaces everywhere.

The Chronic Disease and Unhealthy Work Culture Crises

Lifestyle-related diseases and healthcare costs only continue to skyrocket. The harsh reality: roughly 70% of all deaths each year are a result of preventable diseases (CDC) and the global price tag of largely preventable chronic diseases could reach a crippling $47 trillion by 2030 (World Economic Forum). The GWI decided, analyzing the research, that to create meaningful change you must focus on the workplace. Not only do adults spend most of their waking hours at their jobs, GWI research shows that more than three-quarters of all employees report they’re struggling with their wellbeing. For instance, 52% are overweight/obese and the workforce is aging at an historic rate: 18% will be over 55 by 2030. And despite the fact that the cost of unwellness at work represents 10-15% of global economic output (with $2.2 trillion lost every year in the US alone), only 9% of the world’s workforce has access to some form of wellness program

This month's focus is Sleep:

Sleep is a biological necessity, part of the regenerative life support system that enables us to function, grow and thrive. Yet, across the planet, we are increasingly sleep-deprived, so much so that insufficient sleep is now considered a public health crisis with far-reaching economic consequences to nations and employers alike. If your purpose as a leader is to uplift human potential and performance, then promoting sleep—and its cousins, rest and recovery—should be at the top of your wellness list.

Leading researchers agree: Quality sleep helps us maintain peak physical and mental performance. It impacts our ability to live well and work well in numerous ways.


Physical Health—Better sleep can lessen mortality risks as well as the likelihood of developing chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Sleep also helps our bodies with cell repair and immune function, thermoregulation, metabolic regulation and hormone control and release. Plus, deep restorative sleep is essential for removing the metabolic waste that builds up over the course of the day, a waste that scientific circles are starting to link with Alzheimer’s disease.

Brain Function—Good sleep can improve learning and memory, decision-making, creativity, adaptability and problem-solving as well as our psychomotor and cognitive speed and attention. When we lack sleep, we may have trouble focusing and concentrating, become easily confused, make risky or faulty decisions, and have slower reaction times; even moderate sleep deprivation can impair our mental performance as if we were legally intoxicated.

Stress & Resilience—Nearly all mood and anxiety disorders are linked with some kind of sleep disruption; those of us with insomnia are 10 times more likely to be diagnosed with depression. Five-hour sleep nights, even for one week, are associated with increased fatigue, stress, mental exhaustion, tension and anxiety and mood disturbances. Sleep also impacts our resilience, especially in highly stressful or traumatic situations. Our emotional bandwidth (and happiness overall) narrows when we lack rejuvenating sleep. On the other hand, the brain chemicals associated with deep sleep tell the body to produce less stress-related hormones, making good sleep a buffer from burnout.

Relationships—When we’re sleep-deprived, we are more likely to misattribute harmful intent to others at work and home, plus express more negativity and emotional reactivity as well as less empathy. We are also more apt to hang on to our gender and racial biases. Shelly Ibach, the CEO of Sleep Number, goes so far as to say, “If we can improve people’s sleep, we can make this a kinder world. When we’re well-rested, we’re more present in our interactions. We take more time to listen. We’re more available. And presence leads to kindness.”

Work Effectiveness—According to a recent study, when we have sleep troubles, we are likely to experience more work absences, lower performance ratings and higher health care costs. We may also feel internally depleted and less engaged at work. The cost to employers can be enormous. One study found fatigue-related productivity losses amount to $1,976 per employee annually. Plus, inadequate rest can lead to more deviant, abusive and unethical behaviour and erode the higher-order leadership skills—from problem-solving and achieving results to seeking different perspectives and supporting others—that fuel well-run organizations.


In our always-on workplaces, sleep, rest and recovery are often not valued. Use these tools to make sleep a wellbeing and performance-enhancer in your organization.

Assess sleep health.

Ask your co-workers to rate their sleep health with this simple sleep assessment by the University of Pittsburgh. (For a deeper assessment, check out the Pittsburgh Quality Sleep Index or the Sleep Hygiene Assessment by WebMD.)

Make better sleep a priority.

Encourage colleagues and family to limit caffeine intake at least six hours before sleep. Create rituals, such as a relaxing mindfulness practice, to cue your body that it’s time to sleep. Avoid screen time before bedtime. If possible, add circadian lighting to your home, where light is brighter when it’s time to wake up and dimmer and warmer when it’s time to rest. Finally, consider tech support, such as sleep apps that limit blue light or provide jet-lag minimizing solutions.

Use sleep as a tool for creative insight. The mental restructuring that a good night’s sleep provides can help work through thorny problems with greater creativity and ease. Practice what visionaries do: Proactively use theta brain waves to your advantage by doing this problem-solving exercise as you start to wake up but while you are still in that half-sleep state.

Co-opt rest habits from cultures around the world. The Japanese teach us inemuri, the art of sleeping anywhere; Greeks relish their midday quiet time, mesimeri; the Netherland’s niksen is the practice of doing nothing; and Islamic traditions value sleep as a sign of greatness. During a face-to-face meeting or videoconference with your team, explore how rest and recovery can be an integral part of the work culture.

Schedule teamwork with rejuvenation in mind.

Be aware of local time zones when orchestrating global conference calls, and implement email blackout times to help employees disengage from work at night. Build in productivity-boosting breaks during the workday. If your organization requires customer responsiveness 24/7 or teamwork across time zones, explore ways to structure work around the circadian rhythm.

Cultivate a sleep-friendly organization. For example, circulate neuroscientist Matthew Walker’s Sleep or Die video or these TED Talks to help your organization understand how sleep affects performance. Embed training on sleep management in your employee wellness and engagement programs. Encourage flexible travel policies so employees can book flights that allow for a good night’s sleep. Institute a healthy sleep policy and provide nap pods or rooms to help employees alleviate sleepiness and fatigue. Plus, incentivize employees to take vacations—and truly disconnect from work.


Deloitte Insights,

2019Podcast with sleep scientist Matthew Walker

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