To succeed in today’s frenetic, 24/7 and interconnected global workplace, adaptability is key. It’s not a question of whether stresses and challenging life events will occur; that’s simply inevitable. The question employers are increasingly asking is: how can they best enable their teams to develop the mental resources they need to maintain peak performance in the face of adversity?
The ingredients of psychological resilience have been the subject of decades of scientific research. While the labels may vary by study, these are the core components which can be considered the building blocks of bouncing back from tough times:
- Supportive and caring relationships
- Being able to make realistic plans and to carry them out
- Problem solving skills
- A positive view of yourself, and optimism for the future
Workplace ‘Resiliency Programs’ which focus on education to develop cognitive capabilities and coping skills in these areas have been found to have small but beneficial effects. Employers can be reassured that investing in proven mental health programs promises a positive ROI, but the impact is often limited by the ability to engage those employees who most need help. When you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed, taking time out from the work day for extra lessons in mental agility may well fall to the bottom of the to-do list.
So, is there another way to boost mental resilience at scale? As you might expect from a Sleep Evangelist, I would argue that sleep holds the key, and I have science on my side!
In the current context in which over 40% of employees are regularly getting fewer than the recommended 7 hours sleep per night, expecting improvements in mental resilience without first addressing lack of sleep is a pretty tall order. The sleep deprived brain is effectively wearing a mental straight jacket; sleep loss interferes with all of the critical components of resilience – for example:
At least one in five employees suffers from chronic insomnia, sleep problems which persist for at least three months, and interfere with our day-to-day functioning both at work and home. Untreated, these employees are at more than double the risk for future anxiety, depression or burnout. On the spectrum of resilience to vulnerability, poor sleep puts you firmly in the most vulnerable category.
Fortunately, the relationship between stress and sleep goes both ways; improve sleep, and those building blocks of resilience start to rebuild your mental shield against stress.
The gold standard treatment for addressing insomnia is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, for Insomnia. It turns out that the cognitive techniques which help promote sleep (such as mindfulness, challenging negative thoughts and imagery), are all tools in the pro-resilience armory. But unlike traditional resilience programs, CBT for Insomnia also includes behavioral strategies to increase your natural sleep drive, to restore mental and physical energy levels.
Better quality sleep is typically the lifestyle goal everyone is most willing to meet! Whether we’re working with employees, patients or citizens at large, the effects on mental health are the same: better sleep means lower stress, less worry and more upbeat mood. At work, this means more energy, greater engagement, higher productivity - and all the ingredients of greater resilience. This is why we view healthy sleep as the critical foundation of any successful health & wellbeing program.
To learn more, read the full white paper on Why Sleep Matters