Why sleep matters

As research shows that two thirds of us aren’t getting enough sleep, Pedro Martins, Director at Total Media examines his own understanding of sleep, championing the internal policies that better align with people's lifestyles & improve employee wellbeing.

Pedro Martins, Total Media



As you will all be well aware, the media industry moves at a pretty fast pace and working within it is no different. I personally can find myself running at what feels like 100mph; attending meetings, preparing proposals, jumping from one pitch to the next, the list goes on and all whilst, trying, to keep on top of my emails.

However, outside of work I can have more of an impact to regain control and balance - although with three kids under 10 this isn’t always easy - which in turn benefits my working life. I try to live a healthy lifestyle through keeping fit and eating well, however I realised I was deprioritising a key factor that has rightfully been getting more and more public attention recently: sleep.

“A neuroscientist shows how a good night’s shut eye can make us cleverer, more attractive, slimmer, happier, and healthier and ward off cancer.” Mark O’Connell, The Guardian

After reading this review of Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep I knew I had to read it. Not only because I work at a media agency whose insights are powered by behavioural science and neuroscience and therefore knew I would find it interesting. But also, for the sheer fact that understanding more about sleep could potentially help me live a happier, healthier and longer life.

In the book, Walker makes you painfully aware of just how detrimental lack of sleep can be to a person’s life. It can demolish your immune system, double your risk of cancer, increase your chance of developing Alzheimer’s, cause depression and anxiety, as well as lead to weight gain through overeating. I could go on, but you get the picture.

adults in developed nations don’t get recommended 8 hours sleep
people are sleeping less than 7 hours
of a nation's GDP is robbed by insufficient sleep

Worryingly, two thirds of adults in developed nations fail to get the recommended eight hours nightly sleep as stipulated by both the World Health Organisation and the National Sleep Foundation, and in the UK it is reported that 39% of people are sleeping less than seven hours. This was me.

Luckily Walker addresses how you can look to improve your sleep throughout the book, including a list of do’s and don’ts which I am trying to take on board. These include:

  1. Sticking to a sleep schedule to ensure I go to sleep and wake up, if the kids haven’t already woken me up, at the same time each day, and yes this includes weekends.
  2. Ensuring that I keep up with my exercise but making sure it is a few hours before I go to bed to bring my body temperature back down, as well as getting outside to get some natural sunlight for at least 30 minutes a day.
  3. Cutting out caffeine. This is the one I am finding a struggle. However, if I do have a cup, or 2, of coffee, I make sure it is early on in the day.
  4. Limiting, although ideally avoiding, alcohol.
  5. Making sure I don’t go to sleep on a full stomach as a large meal can cause indigestion and therefore interrupt sleep.
  6. Increasing the comfortability of my sleep by aiming for a cool, quiet and dark, gadget-free, bedroom. So, it’s goodbye to the TV, phone and late-night check-ins on emails on the laptop for an hour at least before bedtime to reduce my exposure to blue LED light. Instead swapping this for reading a book or listening to a podcast - self-promoting plug here but if you’re after a new series to listen to, our brand-new podcast Behave! is worth a listen if I say so myself.

Under-slept employees are unproductive employees; they’re less motivated, less happy, and less creative.

Pedro Martins

Under-slept employees are unproductive employees

I don’t think I have quite perfected my sleep routine so that I am getting eight hours every night; however I am now putting those practices in place to try and give me the best opportunity to do so and I can already feel the benefits, which have fed through into the way I work.

Fortunately, Total Media adopts a flexible working policy whereby, as long as you work between the core working hours of 10am-4pm each day, you can choose to make up the full 37.5 hours in whichever way you like. Being the early bird that I naturally am, I choose to go to bed earlier and wake up earlier so I get a bit of extra time with the kids in the morning before then getting in to work earlier, which is also when I feel I am most productive as I don’t have the distractions of everyone else in the office.

It’s great to see more and more companies adopting policies such as this which promote working hours that better align with people’s lifestyles and result in improved employee wellbeing. It wasn’t so long ago when I started out in media where employees that undervalued sleep were the ones that were overvalued; praise would be given to those that would be in the office until close to midnight and then back in the office five hours later. Not only is this unhealthy behaviour, but it is actually ineffective.

Under-slept employees are unproductive employees; they’re less motivated, less happy, and less creative, something that is hugely important within an industry where creativity sits at the heart of what we do. These attitudes can also be contagious in that a bad night’s sleep can cause havoc with our emotions and therefore put us in a bad mood. This can have knock on effects with team members and be fed down through the company, especially if it is filtering down from senior leaders.

Furthermore, research has shown that individuals who sleep fewer than seven hours of sleep a night on average cause a staggering fiscal cost to their country compared to those that slept more than eight hours. It was found that insufficient sleep robs nations of almost 2% of their GDP, which amounts to almost as much as each country invests in education.

Therefore, the next time one of your employees says they have overslept, it may not actually be such a bad thing after all!

Guest Author

Pedro Martins, Total Media



Pedro’s sits on Total Media’s board of directors and his focus is on ensuring new clients understand how we can support their ambitions when looking for a new agency. Previously at Total Media he has been responsible for overseeing and leading the largest client service team in the agency. His role at Total Media has enabled him to work across of numbers of industries including FMCG, Ents & Arts, Publishing, Travel, Property, Charities and Tech, driving both performance and brand strategies. Some of his experience includes Slack, TikTok, V&A, Random House, Expedia’s Hotwire, Strutt & Parker, GSK, Renault Retail Group, Rana, Yonex and Porsche GB.

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