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Insomnia grips UK workforce - 11/2001

Employees struggle to deal with work stress

British workers are falling asleep at their desks as rising stress levels take a grip on their nightís sleep.

New research by leading online recruitment site, totaljobs.com, shows that insomnia is the latest stress-related illness facing UK workers, with over two fifths (42.5 percent) admitting that they regularly suffer from lack of sleep because they are unable to switch off from work.

And it is a never-ending circle, as sleep deprivation in turn increases the pressure on workers, with one in five (20 percent) believing that they under perform as a result. Five percent of respondents even admitted that they have fallen asleep at work, in presentations and meetings.

Sunday evenings seem to be particularly bad, with one in four people (25 percent) finding it more difficult to sleep on a Sunday than on a weekday. This syndrome, popularly referred to by respondents as ëSundayitisí, occurs most often as workers panic about the uncompleted tasks awaiting them in the office left over from the Friday before in their rush to start the weekend.

Returning from holidays proves to be an equally stressful time, with one in five workers finding it difficult to sleep the evening before they are due back at their desk. To remedy this, one in ten (10 per cent) of respondents admitted to either coming into the work the day before they are due back or having updates sent by post or email so that they can catch up before returning to the office.

The survey revealed some of the more creative measures that are used to combat insomnia, including:

Standing in cold water for 10 minutes ñ to cool down and relax ensuring the mind considers something completely different from trying to sleep;

Changing pyjamaís for a different pair ñ to make the mind think that you are going to bed afresh;
Getting your partner to drive you around the block to lull you to sleep;

Changing beds ñ new bed means a new nightís sleep.

totaljobs.comís Career Doctor, Stephanie Sparrow says, ìThere is a vicious circle developing here. Workers are internalising their work stress, which leads to insomnia which in turn leads to sketchy performance in the workplace and further stress. Some of the unusual remedies are amusing and may work for some people, but employers really need to look at the reasons for their employees stress and try to help them cope better with stress.î

For those who are having trouble sleeping, Ms. Sparrow provides some examples of more orthodox cures:

Donít drink caffeine or smoke before going to bed;
Drink a glass of warm milk before going to bed;

If you need to snack before sleeping, choose your food carefully ñ cottage cheese is ideal, or a chicken or turkey sandwich. For ënibbleí foods try pumpkin seeds or soy nuts;

Donít do any strenuous exercise in the few hours before you sleep;

Donít watch television in bed;

Write down any worries you have;

Avoid daytime naps

When you go to bed, relax your muscles, beginning with your feet and working your way up to your head.

If you canít sleep ñ get up ñ walk around, relax and try not to worry about it.