North Wales businesses are being urged to help tackle an epidemic in sleeplessness that is putting staff at risk of ill health, early death and accidents at work, while costing the economy millions in lost profit.

Mike Learmond, Senior Development Manager for the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in Wales is urging employers to support staff and managers to attend a new Sleep Workshop run by social enterprise Rhyl City Strategy (RCS Wales).

It’s part of a programme of free half-day workshops being run under RCS Wales’ flagship In Work Support programme, aimed at improving wellbeing of the North Wales workforce to reduce absenteeism and boost productivity.

The Sleep Workshops are designed to help employees get a better night’s sleep, to improve wellbeing, health, happiness and in turn boost productivity in workplaces in RCS Wales’ operating areas of Anglesey, Conwy, Denbighshire and Gwynedd.

Employers are being encouraged to book a course for their workplace or grant staff time to attend a free half-day session with RCS Wales.

Among the key advice is to keep technology out of the bedroom at night and avoid device use for two hours before bed, to reduce exposure to blue light which can interrupt sleep as it confuses the brain into thinking it is morning.

Backing the project Mr Learmond urged employers to consider discouraging non-essential use of work phones, emails or other work-related technology outside working hours.

It comes in the wake of figures showing a lack of sleep is to blame for more than 200,000 working days being lost every year in the UK - at a cost of £40bn, or 1.86% of GDP.

More than a third of people are reported to get fewer than seven hours sleep a night, with those sleeping less than six hours 13% more likely to die earlier than those getting seven to nine hours.

Figures also show that one in every five accidents on major roads are sleep-related - with 40% of them involving commercial vehicles.

Stress, computers and taking work home are often blamed, while working nights can also lead to a lack of sleep, with shift workers, including production staff and those working in care homes, as well as parents of young children all affected.

Mr Learmond said: “The general wellbeing and mental health of our workers are things that are coming up on the agenda more and more often.

“Technology is affecting everybody and we gradually find work filtering into our home life as a result, you can see a work email at 11pm at night and respond to it, and then you are in bed and you end up thinking about it.

“It’s important that we address this and encourage businesses to introduce some best practise to proactively look after the health of their workforce."

The RCS Wales workshops each last for three hours and are being delivered across the region by Doris Adlam and Hayley Romain from the RCS team.

The pair are on a mission to help people understand their individual sleeping needs and make changes that will improve their health and productivity.

The sessions can be delivered in workplaces if booked by an employer, or individuals can sign up to one of the pre-arranged sessions listed on the RCS Wales website and Facebook pages.

The workshops cover the scientific reasons why we need different types of sleep ranging from REM to deep sleep, to allow the brain to sort through and retain important memories while discarding insignificant ones.

Participants also learn about how circadian rhythms mean we generally tend to sleep in 90 minute blocks with some people naturally being early riser ‘larks’ and others ‘night owls’.

The sessions are open to employed people living or working in Anglesey, Conwy, Denbighshire and Gwynedd, under the In Work Support umbrella which is funded jointly by the European Union and Welsh Government.

Hayley said: “Not getting enough sleep can have a big impact on people’s health and wellbeing.

It can lead to emotional, physical, mental and social problems as well as physical problems such as weight gain and it can even impact on your immune system and even your reproductive system.

“It can also be dangerous. Twenty per cent of accidents on the road are due to people falling asleep at the wheel and a lot of major industrial accidents have been linked to a lack of sleep.

“The aim of the workshops is to enable people to understand the importance of adequate sleep. It’s something we all have to do but people maybe don’t realise how important it is.”

She added: “Not having a good night’s sleep has a knock-on effect on your daily life and your health and well-being. Making a slight change can make a big impact on your health.

“The workshops will look at sleeping environments and habits. Do you play X-Box before bed? Do you sleep late and wake up late?

“We will tune into that and possibly make a few tweaks so that you’re getting the best sleep possible, and in a position to face the day ahead.

“We may find underlying issues that people didn’t realise were there and then they can access support for that.

“These workshops are part of our In Work Support Service to support employers with staff who have mild to moderate musculo-skeletal or mental health problems.

“They could already be off sick or be having issues in work which could lead them to being off sick.”

Research shows that high levels of sleeplessness can increase the risk of people catching colds, developing depression or dementia, and even suffering a stroke or heart attack. The risk of obesity, cancer and diabetes is also increased.

Not getting enough rest a night can be associated with a heightened risk of damage to people’s physical or mental health. Poor sleep also affects memory, decision-making, creativity and mood.

Lack of sleep may be caused by alcohol, exercise, caffeine, noise, young children, shift work, or using phones and iPads late at night.

Doris said: “The first thing we want to do is to help people to establish is a good routine.

“Some people need to change sleeping patterns. Some may need to go to bed later, or wake up earlier. It’s about checking that they’re doing the right things for their body and lifestyle.

“We also look at people’s sleeping environment, for example is their bedroom too warm or letting in too much light?

“We also look at at eating and drinking habits, such as when and how much coffee, tea, alcohol or food you have.

“And finally we look at what keeps our minds awake at night and what can we do to address that. If there are underlying causes that need counselling we can refer people.”

The FSB has also launched a Wellbeing in Small Business Hub with resources for employers to download.

Mr Learmond added: “Staff are any businesses most important asset and so it’s important to protect that asset by looking after the wellbeing of our workforce.

“Wellbeing at work can support increase productivity, improve staff performance and reduce absenteeism.

“This does create a business case but the benefits are felt at least as much by the wider economy, government and society as a whole.

“Small business owners can, and do, play a powerful role in improving the lives of their employees through a variety of actions - from innovative and new ideas to simple steps such as encouraging more activity and regular breaks.

“The workshops being run by RCS are a great way to begin implementing such best practise.”

With its headquarters in West Rhyl and another base in Bangor, RCS operates across the whole of Conwy, Denbighshire, Anglesey and Gwynedd. Its In Work Support service has provided support for over 2,000 people since January 2016.

RCS’ In-Work-Support Service is aimed at reducing sickness absence, providing support and work-focused therapies to help employed or self-employed people address common health problems which are affecting their attendance or productivity.

This might include low mood, anxiety or depression, or a physical condition which is causing pain or affecting mobility.

People can refer themselves to the service, by calling 01745 336442 or visit

NHS tips for a good night’s sleep

• avoid heavy or spicy food for two to three hours before bedtime

• no technology in the bedroom

• use blackout blinds to make your bedroom darker or an eye-mask

• make sure the room isn’t too hot or cold

• avoid naps after 5pm

• and establish a regular wind-down routine, such as gentle stretches, a warm bath or listening to a relaxation CD

• going to bed at roughly the same time every night

• keep a sleep diary to identify problems