Brad Meek: 20 March 2022

This is a staggering statistic.

According to the Ministry of Health 3 in 10 adult Kiwis aren’t getting anywhere enough sleep.

That’s more than 1 in 4 of our workforce, 30%, feeling tired all day.

I have to say, until recently, that was the norm for me.

I thought falling asleep at 8:30pm on a Saturday night while watching a movie with my partner was normal.

That I simply needed to catch up on the sleep I wasn’t getting during the week.

What I didn’t know was every hour, every night, I stopped breathing for 10 seconds, 50 times an hour.

That was me, stopping breathing almost 400 times every night.

I didn’t realise how bad things were, it was my partner who finally convinced me it wasn’t right.

So, I reached out to my GP and took some tests.

I’ve now been diagnosed with severe sleep apnea, something potentially thousands of Kiwis have, but don’t realise it.

That could be your employees, in your workplace, on our roads and building sites.

Our people putting in the mahi every day, but limited by poor sleep which can have significant impacts on cognitive function, their physical health and just as importantly their mental health and wellbeing.

The impacts, if not managed, can be worse than driving drunk with the impaired function severe apnoea creates.

I now use a state-of-the-art breathing apparatus called a C-PAP every night.

The results have been remarkable.

Every morning, I wake feeling totally refreshed and more ready to take on the challenges of the day.

Which is why I wanted to share my story; in the hope it might help others recognise they could really benefit from healthier sleep.

And, with World Sleep Day last week, I thought it was the perfect time to help raise awareness around this very important issue.

It’s a worldwide problem too.

A Philips Global Sleep Survey in 2019 reported 62% of adults say they don’t sleep as well as they’d like.

So, we have to think those stats must’ve worsened since the ongoing, worrying stress of COVID-19 is keeping more and more people awake at night.

There’s a plethora of good advice on how to instill good habits for a good night’s sleep.

Don’t eat a huge meal for dinner. Don’t look at your bright mobile and other computer screens before you go to bed. Don’t drink coffee or alcohol. Get a nightly routine going where you start to wind down and relax.

They’re all great tips and they do work for many of us, these sensible approaches might be enough.

Awareness and education are the answer and as General Manager Provider Partnerships & Health Services at UniMed, I’m particularly focused on the workplace.

We have to make sure our people understand it’s an issue, and for those of us in leadership roles, ensure our workforces consider how vital nightly, quality sleep is to their overall wellbeing.

Because by realising that lack of healthy sleep is more common than we think, it makes it easier to accept that it’s OK to seek.

In fact, we owe it to ourselves and each other to ensure we do get proper sleep and avoid the very real ramifications of impaired cognitive function, as well as the negative impacts on physical health and mental wellbeing.

I’d suggest those in management talk to staff about how they’re sleeping and how important it is.

By staying alert to this growing problem, we’ll ensure our entire workforce stays alert on the job.

So when we rise in the morning, we’re all ready to shine.

Brad Meek

General Manager Provider Partnerships & Health Services