Alongside the national theme of managing stress, the College’s Mental Health Awareness Week activities have also focussed on healthy sleep habits.
The national week aims to encourage conversations about mental health to change attitudes and reduce stigma. A range of events have taken place at Imperial, including a sleep yoga session at Ethos, and workshops on how to manage stress and build personal resilience.
At Imperial, supporting the mental health of staff is high on our agenda. Claire O'Brien Director of Occupational Health
A number of colleagues – including two of the College’s Deans – took part in a video reflecting on how they personally manage stress. Nigel Brandon, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering, says to relieve stress he creates a list to help get tasks under control, and enjoys gardening. Other members of staff said that exercising, spending time with friends, meditating and reading supported their mental wellbeing.
As part of the campaign Professor William Wisden, from the Department of Life Sciences, gave a lecture on the importance of sleep and its effect on mental and physical health. Professor Wisden discussed the current research, explaining that sleep clears our brains from the build-up of toxins, rebalances our memories, helps to maintain weight and even boosts the immune system.
Professor Wisden said: “Our circadian rhythm – also known as our internal body clock – is directly linked to our mood. The effects of sleep deprivation can include irritability, memory lapses and hallucinations, but also increases the risk of developing type two diabetes and heart disease. Although some of us might believe that we can stay awake for extended periods of time, it is important to ensure we have a structured sleep in order to boost our mind and body.”
Staff will also benefit from a new digital self-help tool called Sleepio, which was launched by the College’s Occupational Health team. Backed by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, Sleepio is based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and has been clinically proven to help people sleep well. Sleepio is designed to deliver tailored help to all sleepers, providing evidence-based information and advice.
Claire O’Brien, Director of Occupational Health at Imperial, said: “One in four people live with a mental health condition, with sleep and mental health having a very distinct correlation. At Imperial, supporting the mental health of staff is high on our agenda and we understand that poor sleep can significantly impact on mood and wellbeing. Sleepio provides personalised therapy which is evidence-based and clinically proven to tackle insomnia, and we hope that after using it staff will better understand their sleep cycle, make healthier changes and see improvements to their mental health.”
The College has 280 Mental Health First Aiders, who are spread across Imperial’s campuses and can be identified by their bright green lanyards. They are trained members of Imperial staff who can listen, reassure and respond to staff in a crisis, can provide a safe space to start a confidential conversation about mental health and will signpost to relevant support.
Article text (excluding photos or graphics) © Imperial College London.
Photos and graphics subject to third party copyright used with permission or © Imperial College London.
Martin Sayers [Digital Media Producer]
Communications and Public Affairs
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