If you snooze, you...win! The benefits of sleep on employee mental health. - Virgin Pulse (UK)


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If you snooze, you…win! The benefits of sleep on employee mental health.

March 10, 2020 / Employee Engagement

Written By: Katrina Hundal

A long, well-rested, deep sleep. That glorious feeling of waking up refreshed and rejuvenated after a good snooze. Just picturing that, it seems kind of obvious that better sleep leads to improved mood, better productivity and overall better business. And yet, organisations are still failing to take sufficient action to help their employees get more Zs.

But with about 63% of adults worldwide feeling like they’re not getting enough sleep and 1 in 4 people suffering from poor mental health. It’s time to really understand the connection between sleep and mental health then take action.

What’s the cost of ignoring mental health in the workplace?

The figures are startling. Across all parts of the globe. Just take the example of these countries where poor mental health is costing:

  • The UK an estimated £94 billion per year[1]
  • Australia $AUD 10.9 billion per year[2]
  • Singapore approximately US$16 trillion[3]
  • The US around $US 2.5 trillion[4]

With these kinds of stark stats, not even hovering around the millions, but spilling into the billions and trillions, it’s no wonder that more and more companies are investing in mental health and even paying employees to sleep.

How can better sleep improve my employee’s mental health?

Decreased stress

      • Many individuals live with high anxiety and stress. In scientific-lingo, high cortisol levels – the stress hormone in the body. Similarly, when an individual is sleep deprived, their cortisol levels rise. And that’s where the stress-sleep cycle can come into play; with a lack of sleep more likely causing employees to be stressed, which in turn hinders their ability to get a good sleep the following night. But by getting a good night snooze, individuals reap the benefits of lower cortisol levels, naturally helping them to feel more relaxed.

Better learning, memory and concentration

      • Push up productivity with sleep! How? Well during rapid-eye-moment (REM) sleep, the brain transfers knowledge from short to long term memory. Not only that, but studies have also shown neurotransmitter replenishing, meaning better concentration. More clocking in, less checking out. The catch? REM sleep only occurs when you’re in the 6-8 hour window of sleep. So, if your employees miss out on that long deep sleep, they’ll be less likely to reap these brain benefits.[5]

Boosted immune system

      • As your employees pass through the four stages of sleep, each one gets them into a deeper sleep cycle. But it’s at the deep end, that the physiological changes start to kick into gear and help boost our immune system.[6] With a boosted immune system, your employees will be more likely to stay in top physical health which in turn will help them feel mentally fit.

I’m no lullaby singer…What other action can I take to help my employees get more sleep?

Boost their mood

        • People who are stressed out and agitated will find it more difficult to get to sleep. Help your employees stress-less by organising fun social activities. Giving them a chance to give back to the community. And introduce a strong rewards and recognition framework to make sure their achievements are celebrated.

Discover other actions you can take to boost employees’ morale and mood.

Discourage working overtime or outside of office hours

        • This can be a tricky one. Especially if you’re part of an International company, juggling multiple meetings and time zones. But the key is to get buy-in from all your managers and make sure they lead by example. Otherwise, you’ll have employees bringing work-life into the home-life. And their bedroom will become their boardroom.

Rethink your workplace design

        • Ask yourself whether your office could be better set up to promote well-rested employees. Take inspiration from tech giants like Google and Cisco that have installed sleeping pods. Doesn’t fit your budget? Well, create a rest room. Not the bathroom kind, but the kind where people can go relax and have some quiet time. And to top it off, make sure you’ve got plenty of natural light coming into the office. Natural light is vital when it comes to helping your employees’ regulate their body clocks get a good night’s sleep.

Learn more about workplace design and it’s connection to driving employee engagement.

Engage a holistic wellbeing programme

        • Every individual’s health journey is unique. And while several of your employees may struggle with sleep deprivation, each of their underlying issues would quite likely vary. From financial woes to work stress or a struggle to curb the cravings at night. A comprehensive wellbeing programme can help each employee overcome their ‘sleep stealers’ by providing personalised advice that speaks to each of their personal challenges.

Get more ideas on how to improve sleep with our Tip Sheet ‘8 Ways to Quiet Your Mind and Sleep Better Tonight’.


[1] ‘Why looking after works’ mental health makes sounds business sense’, The Guardian, 2019.

[2]State of Workplace Mental Health in Australia’, Beyond Blue, 2014. 

[3] ‘Mental health matters at work’, The Business Times, 2019.

[4] ‘The economic costs of mental disorders’, EMBO Reports, 2016.

[5] [6] ‘Sleep and mental health’, Harvard Health, 2019.

About The Author

Katrina is a Content Specialist based at our Zurich, Switzerland office. It’s not enough for this gal to think locally, she’s determined to make an impact globally. And helping to create fun, healthy workplaces worldwide is her mission. When she’s not busy changing lives for good, you’ll find her doing Bollywood or Samba dancing, having a hit of tennis, or head in the books trying to add another language to her repertoire.

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