Upgrade your Sleep, downgrade your Stress!

With World Sleep Day (WSD) on the 13th of March 2020, Joni Peddie, Resilient People CEO, challenges South Africans to “Catch a wake-up!”

Being badly sleep-deprived affects your work performance and the performance of your whole team. Burnout is at an all-time high in South Africa, so it is vital that you change your sleeping habits for the better.


Last year the World Health Organization (WHO) included 'burnout' in its International Classification of Diseases, describing it as a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been properly managed.


According to a study conducted by Savvy Sleeper, Johannesburg has the highest number of burnt-out employees in Africa, and is ranked 18th worst in the world, just after New York. The high burn-out rate reflects the alarming number of people who are sleeping fewer than the recommended 7 hours a night.


Many of us are working longer and harder than ever before in an environment of job insecurity, as we try to safeguard our futures. We are constantly put under financial, emotional and mental stress, which inhibits our ability to bounce back and reach our full professional potential !


The inability to manage stressis inextricably linked to sleep deprivation. Stress can adversely affect sleep quality and duration, while insufficient sleep can dramatically increase stress levels. We're not working smartly, because we're sleep-deprived, and we're not sleeping well because we're not working productively throughout the day.

A major problem is that employees are under pressure to be ‘always on’ and ‘always available’ every day, even during their personal time at home. This has certainly affected the quality of our sleep, with 56.82% of South African professionals battling to fall asleep, and then to stay asleep. According to Profmed’s 2019 Stress Index (released early 2020), this is mostly due to work-related stress.


From an organisational perspective, sleep deprivation also has a direct impact on workplace performance. A tired employee or colleague easily loses concentration … this is fairly obvious. There are however other workplace opportunity costs that are more difficult to calibrate: like the the fact that complex problem solving abilities, critical thinking and creativity ‘goes out the window’.


According to the World Economic Forum’s top 10 soft skills list for 2022, ‘Active Learning’ is ranked as the 2ndmost in-demand skill needed for the future world of work, followed by ‘Creativity’. Restorative sleep facilitates both memory and learning retention by enhancing memory stability, or what is called consolidation of a memory. Sleep deprivation makes it harder for our brains to absorb and recall existing and new information. Similarly, it limits our brain’s ability to link existing ideas, and to synthesize new ideas. This is all essential when we need to think laterally and discover creative solutions to complex problems.


Finally, a lack of sleep can affect how approachable you are to your colleagues and clients. A recent study explains how facial cues affect how people are perceived, such as skin tone and eyelid openness for health, attractiveness and intelligence. A lack of sleep increases cortisol levels, which breaks down collagen and elastin. These are the protein fibres that keep the skin looking young, elastic and smooth.

The findings suggest that a tired, unhealthy looking face (due to sleep deprivation) makes people less approachable, so their colleagues are less inclined to interact with them … both at work and socially.


Two sleep tips from Joni Peddie


1. Disconnect before you go to bed

Switch off your computer, television and cellphone 60 minutes before you go to bed. The ‘blue light’ that is emitted from these screens suppresses the production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, reducing our ability to fall asleep quickly, and most importantly to have deep, restorative sleep. Your 60 minute ‘digital detox’ before bed will also allow you to disconnect from work-related activities and unwind from the stress of the day. Rather read an interesting book or listen to a podcast to stimulate brain growth. If you HAVE to work on your devices, then wear red night glasses for those 60 minutes (find them on www.resilientpeople.co.za) to block out the blue light and in turn help you to fall sleep faster and get deeper, more restful sleep.


2. Avoid caffeine 6-8 hours before bedtime

Caffeine dehydrates the brain and disrupts your sleep cycle. Battling to stay energised at work? Stimulate your brain with micro-bursts of exercise at the office. Given work and family stress, most people have time constraints, and may not be able to afford to spend an hour at the gym. Instead stand up every hour, drink a glass of water and, if possible, go for a short walk outside. This lowers our cortisol levels (our stress hormone) and refreshes our minds. Most importantly, this sets us up for a good night’s rest.



Resilient People is a business that is abundantly and relentlessly focused on ways to empower individuals and teams to be more resilient in the workplace today.

Through the use of pragmatic Resilience Assessments, Workshops and Key Note Talks, Resilient People crafts bespoke programmes for their clients. The focus is on sustainable behaviour change, taking team by team on a practical, relevant journey.

Joni Peddie is a Professional Speaker, Executive Coach and Strategic Facilitator. She is determined to build awareness in SA about sleep being the key to good health and resilience.


Resilience is a skill needed in the 4th Industrial Revolution, to enable us to bounce back from adversity and do so with AGILITY!