Arianna Huffington recently launched her new business, Thrive, designed to help society with its' biggest crisis. It is interesting to see that this was driven by her own 'burn out' and the gentle push of Alibaba's Jack Ma (China's richest man) who is trying to solve the same crisis in China of over 100 million people suffering from ill-mental health. The crisis is not just a Western issue.

"Poor sleep is linked to physical problems such as a weakened immune system and mental health problems such as anxiety and depression." This was the finding of study by Mental Health Foundation.

Arianna's perspective is that we need more sleep. Even Reid Hoffman is coming around to this conclusion...

So how does a lack of sleep impact business and mental health? Research demonstrates that the two are bi-directionally connected. If we start with poor sleep.

As Matt Walker, Sleep expert, has discovered:

- under-slept employees, defined as getting 6 hours of sleep or less, will select less challenging problems that you give them. 

- under-slept employees will actually generate fewer creative solutions to novel problems that you do actually force them to try and solve. 

- the less sleep that an employee has, the more likely they are to slack off when they are working in teams and just ride the coattails of other people’s hard work. 

- the less and less sleep that an employee has had, the more and more likely they are to lie, become unethical i.e. falsify data in a spreadsheet.

- The more or less sleep that a business leader has had for one night to the next, the more or less charismatic and inspiring the employees will rate that business leader from one day to the next, even though the employees know nothing about how much sleep the boss has been getting.

All of the above can develop into issues for an individual that can also lead to ill mental health such as:

- Disempowerment at work

- Lack of control over work

- No goals or direction 

- Loneliness 

(I have written about these in more detail here). 

The costs associated with the issues highlighted by Matt can simply spiral out of control (i.e. bad data in a boardroom report). What we also know is that if these develop into ill mental-health then it is costing on average £1,350/employee or £38bn/year in the UK alone. 

What can be done? Well as Reid Hoffman who chairs the Podcast I reference below or indeed my own bosses do, lead by example and provide solutions to your employees to solve this wellbeing issue. There are a number of interesting start-ups in this space, Arianna's new venture, Thrive or an app like BetterSpace are both coming from a preventative angle. Why?

Arianna says below "75% of healthcare causes and healthcare problems are stress-related and preventable. Seventy five percent!"

It will be interesting to see how Thrive develops with their clients and the BetterSpace pilot at Linklaters (information here).