Cambridge Sleep Sciences (CSS) created the unique SleepHub® sound technology to help people improve the quality and quantity of their sleep, and we are not alone in that mission.
We got together with Lisa Artis, the deputy CEO of The Sleep Charity in the UK, who gave us a unique window on the current landscape of sleep (and our need for more of it!) as we head into 2022.
Read our interview with Lisa below and learn how The Sleep Charity are doing amazing work in supporting adults, children, teachers, people in the workplace, and just about everyone, to get better sleep!
Hello Lisa, for those who haven’t heard of The Sleep Charity, please can you tell us about the work you do?
Since it started in 2012, the charity has gone from strength to strength, supporting 40,000 families a year with its behavioural approach to sleep issues. It has contracts with local NHS clinical commissioning groups and has also won a host of accolades including the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service (the highest accolade a community organisation in the UK can get), FSI Small Charity, Big Impact Award and the GSK Impact Award and Third Sector Award.
In July 2020, the charity also acquired long-term working partners, The Sleep Council, as part of a strategic move to be one stronger voice and to provide advice and support to empower the whole nation to sleep better. Our aims are to campaign to improve sleep support and access to high quality information, raise awareness of the value of a good night’s sleep and promote understanding around the complexities of sleep through education and offer training to health professionals, voluntary organisations and corporate businesses.
We want everyone to share our vision that sleep is a vital component of health and wellbeing and that everyone living with sleep issues should have access to effective, consistent, evidence-based support.
What changes have you observed during the last 18-24 months in terms of sleep being an issue for people?
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on the nation’s sleep, and we’ve received more enquiries as a result! Over the past 18 months, it has been key for us to develop other ways to support people including revamping the website to make it a more comprehensive resource and launching a National Sleep Helpline.
We saw a significant increase in children experiencing sleep problems during the pandemic due to increased screen time, reduced exercise opportunities, increased anxiety and lack of routine. We also received more referrals from teenagers too. Their circadian rhythm becomes delayed during adolescence and lack of routine with being out of school made this significantly worse. This is why we developed our Teen Sleep Hub that launched in October 2020.
Sleep issues have become more complex across all age groups and are taking longer to resolve as a lot of other support services have been limited in this period too, escalating issues.
How do you think sleep tech, such as SleepHub®, can help address the sleep issues people face?
Lack of sleep is a global problem and people turn to lots of different products or therapies to help them get that elusive good night’s kip. While there are some key sleep hygiene principles that people should follow for getting to sleep and staying asleep – many also find comfort in alternative solutions such as using a lavender scent, listening to sleep sounds or using sound technology that re-trains your brain to sleep, like SleepHub®.
In the past few years we’ve seen the sleep tech industry grow with start-up operations and large-scale tech companies developing solutions. We’ve seen people turning to technology to monitor their sleep remotely – think smart watches, fitness trackers and consumer wearables – but also to help them to sleep better too. Soundscapes and audio have become increasingly popular in helping people to relax and de-stress in the chaotic, fast paced world we live in.
We’re interested in hearing about The Sleep Charity’s workplace training course & sleep ambassador training, could you tell us about these projects?
We are so proud that we received funding from the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust to be able to get this piece of training off the ground to help businesses tackle sleep-related issues in the workforce. It addresses concerns that 28% of Brits have called in sick at least once due to having a bad night’s sleep during the last three months, while nearly two-thirds (64%) say they have felt overwhelmed at work due to a lack of sleep.
There are also 200,000 working days lost every year due to insufficient sleep, costing the UK economy millions and causing major disruption for employees battling back to normality following nearly 2 years of Covid-chaos.
The Workplace Ambassadors initiative delivers training that empowers staff members to support their colleagues in achieving a better night’s sleep.
The training is delivered as a mixture of pre-recorded study and live sessions, and helps ambassadors develop their understanding of the leading causes of sleep issues, the facts and fiction surrounding a good night’s sleep and practical support strategies.
Waitrose, Premier Inn, John Lewis and Holland & Barratt are among the household UK brands to enrol on the programme so far and to date we’ve trained approximately 50 ambassadors since the launch late last year.
In December, as deputy CEO of The Sleep Charity, I was proud to win the Safety & Health Practitioner Trailblazer in Workplace Wellbeing Award, against some serious competition, for my work with the Workplace Sleep Ambassadors programme. The award recognises individuals who have done the most to contribute to people thriving at work, prioritising employees’ wellbeing and mental health.
We know you work with people of all ages. Can you tell us about the work you do with schools, teachers and the education sector?
Working with schools is really important for us as we know that teachers see first-hand the impact sleep deprivation has on performance, attainment, behaviour and mental/physical health. Covid has obviously had an impact but school holidays and general anxiety can also affect sleep.
Daytime tiredness in children and teens is a real issue, so schools need to be provided with more formalised information about the benefits of sleep as part of ongoing compulsory health education. While we teach children about nutrition and ensure regular exercise is part of their weekly activities, the third critical ingredient of a healthy lifestyle – sleep – is barely touched upon. Youngsters need to be taught a healthy lifestyle includes a good night’s sleep.
Quality sleep is essential for children’s growth and development. A decent night’s sleep will help them to do better at school, allow them to react more quickly to situations, have a more developed memory, learn more effectively and solve problems, plus it will make them less susceptible to colds and other minor ailments, less irritable and better behaved!
Through our funded sleep services in Doncaster, Bassetlaw, North Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, we work with the local schools to offer sleep support to families through drop-in sessions. It’s key to have parents fully engaged and empower them with sleep knowledge so that they can fully understand the impact lack of sleep can have on their children now, and in the long term.
Our Sleep Champion training is designed for professionals working in secondary schools and in the past six months have had 118 sign ups and many headteachers, SENCOs and wellbeing mentors sign up for our extensive three-day Sleep Practitioner course.
What projects are on the horizon for The Sleep Charity?
Our new ‘Sleep Talkers’ project is now in full flow. This a two-year project funded by The National Lottery Community Fund. ‘Sleep Talkers’ will be trained volunteers who will share information and guidance about how to spot the signs of sleep difficulties and provide vital early intervention support in the heart of communities across England. The goal is to support people with sleep, as well as reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation and improve mental wellbeing.
The first training package will be targeted at organisations supporting families with children with SEND experiencing sleep difficulties, and as part of the development of the project, we have set up a steering group of parents and professionals with knowledge and experience in this area to support us in creating a robust training package.
The project will be evaluated by Dr Simon Durrant at the University of Lincoln to provide an evidence base which will enable the service to grow in scale over the next two years, reaching people across the UK in a wide range of communities.
How can brands like SleepHub® help The Sleep Charity in the mission to help people get better sleep?
We love working with like-minded brands to help disseminate positive messages around sleep and normalise that sleep issues are actually pretty common. We need people to talk about sleep more with each other, in the workplace, in schools and this is where working with partners is beneficial. We are only a relatively small charity, trying to have a big impact, and we need brands to help us spread the messages further and wider.
Our 'Wake Up Call’ sleep Manifesto (to download a copy visit www.thesleepmanifesto.com) launched in March 2020 called on the UK government to push sleep up the public health agenda. We want sleep to be a critical part of the Change4Life initiative and promoted as being as important to good health as diet and exercise.
The Sleep Charity Manifesto makes three key calls for action:
- greater understanding and recognition of the impact sleep issues have on individuals, families and societies
- a right to support at the earliest possible stage for those with sleep issues
- for high quality support – underpinned by government policy – to be made available for those with sleep issues
As part of the push, we also call on any individuals, businesses or organisations concerned to promote good sleep among employees, students or the wider community, to pledge their support by signing up to the Charter for Sleep Equality.
What support does The National Sleep Helpline offer, and who is it available to?
According to a recent survey by Furniture Village, the average UK adult suffers nine bad nights’ sleep per month – equating to around 500 million across the country each month, but there is very limited support available.
To combat the problem, we have teamed up with Furniture Village to launch a national helpline providing assistance to anyone with sleep difficulties. It is operated by specialist, trained advisors between 7pm and 9pm five days a week, Sunday to Thursday. They provide callers with helpful tips and advice so they can identify appropriate strategies, talk through their problems and try and point them in the direction of other organisations and services for specialist or long-term support.
How can people struggling with sleep get information and support from The Sleep Charity?
We offer advice and support through our;
- Website www.thesleepcharity.org.uk
- National Sleep Helpline 03303 530 541
- Funded sleep services in Doncaster, Bassetlaw, Lincolnshire, North Yorkshire and through Alder Hey Children’s Trust.
And finally, what are your own top tips for a good night’s sleep?
There are lots of really useful tips to help improve sleep – but don’t be alarmed thinking that you have to do them all! You should really assess your own sleep and work out what areas could be improved on e.g. is it your caffeine or alcohol consumption that’s stopping you sleeping? Too much screen time?
However, if I was to give my top 3 – I would be looking at the three R's as these are elements most of us can easily practice:
- Regular hours: going to bed and getting up at the same time every day programmes the body to sleep better.
- Routine: routines that are associated with sleep signal to the brain that it’s time for sleep; these could include a warm bath, reading, having a milky drink etc.
- and the Right Environment: it ideally needs to be cool, quiet, dark, clutter free with a comfortable mattress, pillows and bedding!
End of interview
If you would like to find out more about the fantastic work The Sleep Charity does you can find them online at thesleepcharity.org.uk.
Thank you to Lisa Artis for your time and interview with Cambridge Sleep Sciences.