Asleep on the Job?

Liesl Jobson


Sometimes there is a book that changes your life. When I picked up The Sleep Revolution by Arianna Huffington, the co-founder and editor in chief of The Huffington Post, the information contained within its pages rang painfully true. In particular, the tormented consequences of insomnia – a rather too familiar condition – leapt off every page and the results of studies rang strident alarms. Yet, I kept nodding off as I tried to read it. My arm grew heavy and the book landed in my lap, jolting me awake. This refers to my chronic exhaustion rather than the startling facts covered by the book. Huffington has written on a topic about which we should all be interested and deeply concerned.

If you’re truly lucky, you sleep like the proverbial baby and may think this book is not for you. It is, though! Especially if you’re an employer. Even if you, personally, have the ridiculous good fortune of experiencing untroubled sleep there are insomniacs all around you. They are on the road and in your home, which you can do little about, except hope to avoid them in their stupefied out-of-control state! But they are also, in all likelihood, on your pay roll – in your factory, shop or office. That is, indeed, your concern.

You should know that like Donald Trump, they are not fully in control of themselves. Behind the Resolute Desk at the White House, a sleep deprived president is at risk of pressing the wrong damn button, wreaking nuclear havoc when all he wanted was cofveve… ooops! coke, coffee or more fawning press coverage?

In response to the tweet that became a hilarious meme globally, sleep experts explained cognitive impairment resulting from chronic sleep deprivation. This topic is your business, in particular if your employees in any way put themselves or your business is at risk.

Do you have factory workers who might damage machines or injure themselves? Consider how heavily they cost you in wasted production time if they nod off? What about drivers conveying your goods across the country? Huffington has revolutionary suggestions for creating sleep spots for employers. She predicts that “nap rooms” will become as commonplace as board rooms in future.

According to the author most of the world is stuck in an utterly exhausting sleep deprivation crisis with ghastly consequences on health, job performance, relationships and general wellbeing. Huffington, who fractured her cheek when she passed out from sleep deprivation, prescribes a “sleep revolution”. This programme enables people to renew their intimate relationship with their pillow and so regain control of their lives.

Huffington has written about this elemental human behaviour with wisdom and kindness, enabling readers to view sleep as a gateway to a more fulfilled way of living. The facts are startling, the prose is not. Perhaps that also explains why I couldn’t stay awake. I did hope for a more literary

A year after first reading this book, I am glad that I made some real changes. I now use a solar lamp at bed time as part of my sleep time ritual. The gentle light signals my brain that it’s time to wind down. I have also dramatically cut back on screen time late at night, avoiding checking social media before going to bed. When I returned to the book for the purpose of reviewing it, I found this encouraging tip that keeps me on the right track. It’s from Karen May, Google’s vice president of people development:

  • Play the long game. Change is never a straight line, and trying to get more sleep has been no exception. Stuff comes up at work that I want to tackle. I’m with my family and friends and I don’t want to leave the party. Some nights I just don’t sleep well — but I remind myself that this is a long game, and little incremental changes add up, and “backsliding” is part of how change happens.


FETOLA 2016 0038Liesl Jobson is an writer, photographer and musician. Formerly a consulting editor of Books LIVE, she is now Fetola’s media co-ordinator. She is the author of Ride the Tortoise, 100 Papers, (which was translated into Italian as Cento strappi) and View from an Escalator as well as three Book Dash children’s books. She enjoys promoting the success of the small business entrepreneurs who make South Africa work.