The extra hour in bed after the clocks changed this weekend may not be enough to tackle the nation’s sleep deficit, according to new research commissioned by Demos and IKEA. The report, called Dream On: Sleep in the 24/7 Society, ispublished today (Monday 1 November).
The report concludes that if your boss is a nightmare to work for, he or she is probably short of sleep. Polling by MORI showed that people aged 35-44 think they are the most sleep deprived in Britain (48% say they do not get enough sleep, compared to 39% of the general population).
Among that age group, the people who are most likely to suffer from lack of sleep have young children and are holding down managerial jobs. When asked about the effects of lack of sleep, half of managers (50%) said they were irritable and shouted, and one in five (19%) said they were likely to make mistakes.
“On any working day, a quarter of all managers in Britain are likely to be in a bad mood because they have not slept well,” says Charles Leadbeater, author of Dream On. “These sleep-deprived and shouty managers with a tendency to make mistakes are responsible for millions of British workers. It’s hardly a recipe for good management.”
Britain is already recognised as having a long-hours work culture which affects people’s well-being. But Dream On exposes how a combination of long hours and high-pressure jobs is affecting people’s sleep, and creating a vicious circle of tiredness and stress. The report argues that sleep is the forgotten dimension of the work/life balance debate.
“This research has confirmed our suspicions that Brits simply aren’t getting enough sleep and this is having a detrimental effect on our society as a whole,” says Peter Jelkeby, Marketing Manager for IKEA.
Apart from children keeping their parents awake, worrying about work is the biggest cause of wakefulness at night among managers (15%, compared to 7% of the general population). Women are five times more likely than men to lose sleep because their partner snores.
The relationship between workplace stress and domestic tensions are particularly apparent. In households with children where both parents work, the problems can be compounded.
“A small loss of sleep is likely to have a big impact on people who lead stressful lives,” says Charles Leadbeater. “Stressed out parents are already not sleeping enough. They are the people most likely to have their sleep disrupted and they are least able to recover. This cocktail needs to be tackled by employers and policy-makers to reduce the sleep deficit, and its impact of families and workplaces.”
Overall the report argues that we need a change in our attitudes to sleep, so that working long hours and borrowing from sleep time is no longer seen as evidence of a busy, successful person.
The report predicts that there is likely to be a growing market to sleep-deprived people, with an increase in ‘public napping’. One suggestion is the creation of automated ‘shut-eye pods’, based on the coin-operated toilets in some cities, which would allow people to have a quick nap.
Opportunities to take a nap at work are also likely to increase, and the report recommends that employers take their responsibility for ensuring employees are well slept more seriously. People who work long or irregular hours, particularly parents of young children, should be allowed to take ‘catch-up days’.
Notes for editors
- Dream On: Sleep in the 24/7 Society is published by Demos in partnership with IKEA on Monday 1 November 2004. Copies can be ordered from Central Books on 020 8986 5488 and downloaded as a PDF from /publications/dreamon
- The report is launched at Demos at 6pm on Monday 1 November 2004.
- Charles Leadbeater is an author and consultant who has advised several government departments, including the prime minister’s strategy unit and the Department of Trade and Industry.
- Demos is an independent think tank with a long track record in identifying long-term social, economic and political trends.