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'Wake no later than 7.30am, seven days a week': Could 'sleep training' make Ireland more productive?

We explore the ins and outs of another big idea on the fourth episode of Ireland 2029.

Image: Shutterstock/Smit

A LOT CAN happen in 10 years. Where is Ireland going, and what will life be like here in the year 2029? Welcome to Ireland 2029: Shaping Our Future, a brand new podcast from TheJournal.ie.

Over the next 10 episodes, we’re partnering with Volkswagen to bring you 10 big ideas that could change Ireland for the better. Each week, we’ll talk to someone about an idea they truly believe could work, and find out whether it’s practical, or whether it’s a non-runner.

In the fourth episode of Ireland 2029, we ask: Could we train the entire nation to sleep better – and boost Ireland’s GDP in the process?

GUIDELINES FROM THE National Sleep Foundation in the US state that the average adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep a night – but many of us out there get far less than that. 

Sleep deprivation has been linked to a huge range of health problems, from stroke and heart disease, to anxiety and depression – and paediatric sleep specialist Lucy Wolfe reckons Irish people simply don’t know enough about the link between sleep and wellbeing.

Yes, there are basic practical steps most adults out there are aware of, she says – like reducing caffeine intake throughout the day – but when it comes to the more in-depth facts about sleep hygiene, there’s a gap in knowledge that needs filling:

One of the most important things is to have a regular wake time, every day of the week – that means that you wake no later than maybe 7.30am, seven days a week… We need to support people with information and guidance to allow for better sleep practices and prioritise sleep as a pillar of wellbeing. It’s not to be underestimated.

Speaking in the latest episode of Ireland 2029, health coach JP Hughes calls out modern working environments – and a lack of sleep hygiene knowledge among employers and employees – as a key factor in unhealthy sleep patterns.

“[Companies] should care because sleep has a huge impact on productivity and absenteeism… Commute times are rising, we’re getting up earlier and getting home later,” he says.

When commutes go on past the 60-minute mark each way, we’re looking at about 16 minutes sleep loss that night.

As well as making for a healthier, more content workforce, a more balanced approach to sleep hygiene could also have knock-on effects for our economy. A study by the RAND Corporation in 2016 examined the economic effect of sleep deprivation – focusing mainly on days of labour lost due to insufficient sleep.

The study estimated that if individuals who currently sleep for six hours started to sleep for seven hours, it could add €202bn to the US economy, and €26.6bn to the UK economy. 

So should a government-led campaign to improve Ireland’s sleep patterns be introduced here? It’s an approach that may already be in motion in other European countries. The Guardian recently reported on a “leaked draft” of a UK government public health green paper, setting out plans for better education on the links between sleep and health. 

Curious? Hear more on the fourth episode of Ireland 2029: Shaping Our Future, which is live right now:

Full list of providers here 

Source: Ireland 2029/SoundCloud

Ireland 2029 is a podcast from TheJournal.ie, in partnership with VolkswagenThis episode was put together by presenter Zusia Whelan, producer Hayley Halpin, editor Nicky Ryan, series producer Órla Ryan and executive producer Christine Bohan. With thanks to Paula Lyne and our contributors. 

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