|Sleep quality also influences how a person feels and during a pandemic. / Photo by izkes via Shutterstock|
As coronavirus cases have surged, most companies have now asked their employees to work from home. While the remote workforce has long existed, the typical telecommuting work doesn’t apply because of the pandemic. Many are struggling to keep their home and work lives separate and maintain a routine to look after their mental and physical wellbeing at the same time.
Sleep quality and entrepreneurial outcomes
University of Waikato lecturer in innovation and strategy Dr. Amanda J. Williamson recently co-authored a study which highlights the importance of good sleep hygiene during the lockdown and beyond. Focusing the research on the psychological implications of entrepreneurship, the team said that people have romanticized entrepreneurship in a way that creates jobs or gives fulfillment to people. However, other factors can influence the ability of entrepreneurs to behave in their best innovative way. For instance, people will likely experience negative emotions, such as anxiety, if they have a bad sleep.
Applying it to entrepreneurs, if their productivity is affected, it also affects their ability to function in society since they are usually attached to their businesses. When things go wrong, they cannot apply their best effort at work and they cannot be more resilient and creative as they are if they have a healthy sleep.
Dr. Williamson explained via media outlet NZ Herald that one of the best things that people can do is practice extending compassion to one’s self in times of general suffering and inadequacy. Sleep quality also influences how a person feels and during a pandemic, it is easy for a person to not give importance to sleep or overindulge in alcohol or coffee. These are some of the actions that influence sleep and, consequently, one’s ability to function the following day.
|Chronic short sleep, on the other hand, shuts down certain programs in the body that are involved in the immune response. / Photo by Rido via Shutterstock|
To combat the negative emotions during a pandemic and beyond, the study suggests having a sleep environment and not turn the bedroom into an entertainment center. This means avoid eating and watching TV in front of it. The bedroom should be just to sleep. “That’s how we can keep it hygienic,” Williamson added.
Dr. Williamson’s interest in this topic as a result of her work at the New Zealand Centre for Small Business Research. Back then, she would often interview business owners and realized that once they already covered business-related topics, they would begin “human-to-human” conversations. For example, they would discuss how lonely or difficult it is to be an entrepreneur. This sparked her desire to help these entrepreneurs, she said.
On the other hand, she was interested in studying sleep when she was looking for topics for her Ph.D. During that time, she became a mom to an infant. She narrates how she would experience mental block because of a lack of sleep from taking care of their newborn.
The stress of living under lockdown
The 24/7 updates and global uncertainty could be tempting for people to follow the news and stay up, but it is not a good idea during a pandemic. This is because getting enough sleep will not only keep our minds healthy amid the health crisis but will also help build the body’s natural defenses against illnesses.
Chronic short sleep, on the other hand, shuts down certain programs in the body that are involved in the immune response. This was explained in a separate study by the University of Washington Medicine. Sleep also helps the immune system recover. A healthy sleep replenishes our memory, decision-making, empathy, and mood, all of which play an important role in times of collective anxiety caused by the global crisis.
Global sleep problems
Falling asleep usually takes on average 10 to 15 minutes but if you fall asleep within a few minutes, it could mean that you are sleep deprived. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 35% of adults nowadays don’t get enough 7 hours of sleep per day. Healthy sleep duration is also found to be more common among married couples (67%) compared to people who were never married (62%), or those who were widowed, separated, or divorced (56%).
More than 15% of adults also use some form of sleep aids. Sleep medication use was less in men (3.1%) compared to women (5%).
The Institute of Medicine has further estimated that billions of dollars are spent on medical costs related to insomnia every year.
Economic burden of sleep deprivation
Sleep deprivation is associated with productivity losses at work. Research organization RAND Corporation shares that 200,000 working days are lost in the United Kingdom every year due to sleep deprivation. Among the five OECD countries it studied, the United States sustains the highest economic losses worth US$411 billion a year or 2.28% of its GDP due to sleep deprivation. The reason why insufficient sleep costs the highest in the US economy is also because of the size of its economy.
The second-highest economic loser due to insufficient sleep is Japan ($138 billion or 2.92% of its GDP), Germany ($60 billion or 1.56% of its GDP), United Kingdom ($50 billion; 1.86%), and Canada ($21.4 billion; 1.35%).
RAND recommended that to improve the sleep outcomes, employers should recognize the importance of sleep, build brighter workspaces, discourage the extended use of electronic devices, or combat physiological risks in the workplace.
Millions of people were already suffering from insomnia even before the pandemic and Covid-19 just created new challenges for them and those who previously had no sleeping problems. Since there are disruptions in daily life, such as social distancing, working-from-home, quarantines, school closures, it has created profound changes in the sleep pattern for people of all walks of life and of all ages. Many people also fear to catch the virus so anxiety and worry abound. The quarantine can also bring depression and isolation, which can cause sleeping problems as well. Social distancing can also mean excess screen time, particularly later in the evening. This is not a good thing as it stimulates the brain in ways that make it difficult to relax and the blue light suppresses the hormone that should be supposed to make people sleepy.
The world is now dealing with an infectious disease but we have ways to change our response to infection. Maintaining good sleep hygiene is one.