You've probably heard that eight hours of sleep a night is ideal. Butdon't be fooled by the buzz — everyone's magic number isdifferent.

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You might feel alert and effective on six hours of sleep. Or youmight find yourself dragging, caffeinating, and making frequenttrips to the vending machine without nine hours or more. What'simportant is that you sleep as much or as little as you need to beyour best self.

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Sadly, sleep is often a taboo topic in the workplace. Technologyhas driven the “always on” expectation — so if you're sleeping, youmust be slacking. But with lack of sleep linked to serious healthissues and decreased cognitive function, sleep-deprived employeesare more likely to make poor decisions and be less productive.

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In fact, one in four leaders don't get enough sleep,undermining important behaviors such as effective problem solvingand supporting others. Even worse, these sleep inefficiencies caneventually hurt financial performance: Insomnia costs U.S. businesses more than $63 billion inlost productivity.

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Sleep isn't a luxury — it's a necessity that drives health andproductivity. And it's not just an individual issue. Organizationsmust support employee sleep efforts — yet 53 percent of them create schedules that encouragesleep deficiency.

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How do you build an organization that supports and encouragessufficient sleep? It starts with creating a culture and workenvironment that allows — and encourages — employees to unplug andrecharge.

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Here are four things you can do to help your employees prioritizesleep:

Limit work hours

Employees want to do their best work and get great results forthe company — so they often stay connected to the office outsidetypical operating hours. Unfortunately, this comes at the expenseof sufficient sleep. Set policies that prohibit working after acertain time, even if that means shutting down email servers,like Volkswagen did. Limitations are especiallycritical for people whose jobs impact public safety, like medicalpersonnel, truck drivers, and airline pilots.

Start walking

It sounds counterintuitive, but studies show that a 30-minute walk inmorning light is one of the best ways to get a good night's sleep.The light helps regulate the body clock and releases mood-boostingserotonin, making for happier, well-rested employees. So start amorning walking group — and forgo the conference rooms in favor ofwalking meetings. And your shift workers who miss out on thesunshine? Encourage them to get up and stay active during theirbreaks.

Create an intentional office setup

Help employees stay alert during the day by adding features tothe workplace designed to elevate their energy. Think paint colors,cozy furniture, and uplifting posters. Research has shown thatcognition-enhancing blue-enriched white light during the dayimproves sleep at night. And there are other advantages as well,like improved mood, concentration, and productivity.

Promote sleep challenges

 

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This is a fun way to engage people in friendly competition.Employees can use an activity tracker (like the Jawbone UP ora Fitbit), an app (try Sleep Cycle), orsimply self-report the number of hours they're logging each night.Take it a step further by asking them to report on quality of sleepand share “best practices” for getting a good snooze. Encouragingeveryone to track their sleep schedules (such as bedtime and howmany times they wake up at night) will help them understand thepatterns that lead to their best sleep.

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When it comes to your organization's culture, keep in mind that“always on” is the opposite of “always productive.” It doesn'tincrease output. It increases burnout — and that increasesturnover and costs.

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Give your people a break. Help them get some rest. Because whenwe snooze, everyone wins.

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