Effective Leadership and Sleep

Do You Sacrifice Sleep?

Is there a link between effective leadership and how much sleep you are able to get at night? When I thought aboutthis question, my first instinct was to think that “no”, there was no direct correlation between the two. I mean, I did not personally know many people who regularly receive 6-8 hours of sleep at night. To me, sleeping that much seems like a luxury, or something reserved for a lazy Sunday morning.

In my professional career, when I think of all of the people I’ve worked with, from middle-management to senior level positions, entrepreneurs, etc., just thinking of all the aspects of life – balancing daily work loads with the needs of every day life, who really has the luxury of 8 hours of adequate sleep? Many of us have learned to function on an average of 4-5 hours, and if we’re lucky, 6 hours of sleep a night. We stay at work late, sometimes taking our work home, check our emails before we go to bed and first thing in the morning to make sure there are no fires we need to put out in the office. Well, in an effort to be effective leaders, many of us have sacrificed our own well-being, to make sure we can check off lines on our to-do lists. So what gives?

Does Sleep Make A Difference?

Last month, I had a chance to experience Arianna Huffington’s keynote address discussing her book, “The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time”. During her speech, she alluded to the fact that people get so used to operating in a stress or burnt out mode, that this becomes our new normal, and we do not even realize how operating in this time is ineffective in all aspects of our lives. She spoke from personal experience having collapsed from sleep exhaustion and broken her cheekbone during her fall several years ago. This all happen two years into building the Huffingtonpost.com. She had no idea she was sleep deprived. Huffington considers sleep the “new performance enhancer” and suggests that leaders / executives should treat their body like athletes, ensuring there is enough sleep and recovery time to make the best of your next day.

According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, (https://hbr.org/2016/02/theres-a-proven-link-between-effective-leadership-and-getting-enough-sleep) out of 180 business leaders surveyed, only four out of ten (43%), say they do not get enough sleep at least four nights a week. While many leaders often brag of the limited amount of sleep they need, many scientist suggests that most people need a minimum of seven to nine hours of sleep each night. The HBR article also suggests that leaders lack focus if they do not receive enough sleep; stating that “research shows that after roughly 17 to 19 hours of wakefulness, individual performance on a range of tasks is equivalent to a person with a blood alcohol level of 0.05%; after roughly 20 hours, this same person’s performance equals that of someone with a blood alcohol of 0.1%, the legal definition of drunk in the United States.”

What How? How Can You Get More Sleep?

In working on my own sleep pattern, and at times battling bouts of insomnia, I have researched the issues of sleep, and how to become better at preparing my body to sleep. Of course yoga and mediation are always great, but sometimes, I may do those things early in the day, so I’m in need of a night time routine that can help me sleep better. Arianna suggests that you start by targeting at least 30 mins of additional sleep each day.

Recently, I’ve been traveling quite a bit, and sleeping in different time zones and in hotel rooms can really interrupt your sleep.  Interestingly enough, while on a business trip, I found a postcard on my bed that listed the following:

Arianna Huffington’s 8 Tips For A Better Sleep

  1. Set a cool room temperature.
  2. No electronic devices starting 30 minutes before bedtime.
  3. No caffeine after 2pm.
  4. Pajamas, nightdresses and even special t-shirts send a sleep-friendly message to your body. If you wear it to the gym, don’t wear it to bed.
  5. Do some light stretching, deep breathing, yoga or mediation to help your body and mind transition to sleep.
  6. When reading a book, make it a physical book or an e-reader that does not emit blue light.
  7. Ease yourself into sleep mode by drinking some caffeine-free tea.
  8. Before you turn off the lights, write a list of what you are grateful for.

I think I’ll give these tips a try in the next few weeks! Who know, maybe my next great idea will appear in a ream. I read somewhere that Larry Page came up with the idea for Google in a dream! Cha-Ching!!!

Happy Sleeping!

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