What is sleep and recovery?

For every two hours of time, an athlete spends awake and stressed, it takes one hour of sleep to recover. This means that if an athlete is awake and under stress 16 hours a day, at least 8 hours of sleep are required for the CNS to recover from the overload.

Sleep is crucial for the recovery and recalibration of every system of the body each night, and so disrupted or poor sleep can have a very negative impact on how a person feels and functions.

What is the importance of sleep and recovery?

Sleep and work productivity is an essential component of employee health. Sleep deprivation presents considerable risks to health and well-being and also has costly consequences for organisations. Without enough sleep, overall well-being and productivity suffers. Economic losses in the UK due to insufficient sleep amount to 200,000 lost work days and $50 billion annually.

Sleep deprivation is much more dangerous than most people realise and has many negative effects on employees and the workplace, some of which we explore here:


When employees are tired they have more difficulty communicating and are less able to understand cues from other people or their environment. Tired workers are a danger to themselves and others and the highest rate of major workplace safety incidents is found among shift workers. It is well established that shift workers can experience serious fatigue due to lack of sleep or sleep cycle disruptions. Some of the most serious workplace accidents have been attributed to fatigue, including Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and the Exxon Valdez.


When workers are tired they are less likely to be vigilant and their response time to incidents also declines. Tired employees are often unable to detect that their job performance is declining, and it continues to worsen the longer they work under fatigue. Not only does job performance suffer when employees are sleep-deprived, but they also have decreased cognitive abilities and motor control. They may also have trouble focusing and keeping track of activity sequences. If employees are required to drive or operate machinery, their inability to pay attention and their decreased reaction time presents considerable risks. One study shows that after 17 to 19 hours without sleep, performance was equivalent or worse than that of a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.05 percent.


When a sleep-deprived employee comes to work, the number of errors increases with the time spent working. Sleep deprivation and productivity don’t go hand in hand. Tired employees are prone to making mistakes of commission (performing an act that leads to harm) and omission (not performing an expected task). Both of these types of errors can impact workplace productivity and safety.


Sleep-deprived individuals are often unengaged and withdrawn. They are prone to inappropriate outbursts that can negatively affect working relationships with colleagues. They may be unusually irritable, impatient, socially inappropriate, and uncooperative.  If unmitigated, these sorts of behaviours can lead to negative consequences for the workplace and the employee.


Cognitive studies have shown that sleep deprivation can result in higher levels of risk-taking behaviour. Not only are sleep-deprived individuals inclined to take more risks, they are also less likely to think rationally and logically. In the workplace, sleep-deprived employees are more likely to make riskier decisions and minimise the possibility of negative consequences.

The link between sleep deprivation and motor and cognitive function is clear.  Sleep-deprived workers present major risks to themselves and others in the workplace and productivity levels and quality of work will be compromised.

The good news is that small changes can have a big impact. If people slept one more hour per night, it could add nearly $30 billion to the UK economy. Sleep also has a significant impact on overall health and mortality. When people sleep better, they eat healthier, exercise more, and are better able to cope with stress. Improving employees’ sleep should be a part of every organisation’s wellness strategy with sleep and work productivity so interlinked. Employees physical and mental health will improve, they will be more productive, and the organisation will benefit from reduced absenteeism, workplace incidents, and healthcare costs.

How to increase deep sleep?

Although you may be in bed for 8 hours, you may not be getting enough deep sleep. It is merely impossible to force your brain to go into a deep sleep. However, there is a few ways that have shown some promise in terms of increasing your chances of going into a deep sleep.

  • Creating a sleep routine and ritual
  • Reduce stress
  • Sleeping in a cold room
  • Increase exercising
  • Listening to white noise
  • Meditating
  • Healthy diet

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