If your anything like me, you are always doing everything you can to get the most out of every second. You’re always thinking of ways to get more out of your time. Sometimes that means you even cut into your sleep. In the moment, cutting sleep seems like the best use of your time. Getting a few more minutes of work done is much better and productive than the few minutes you would have slept, right? Wrong! Sleep improves leadership!
How much sleep do you need?
Let’s dig a little deeper. According to the Mayo Clinic, the average adult needs between 7-9 hours of sleep. Eric J. Olson, M.D. explained, “Some people claim to feel rested on just a few hours of sleep a night, but their performance is likely affected. Research shows that people who sleep so little over many nights don’t perform as well on complex mental tasks as do people who get closer to seven hours of sleep a night.”
Negative effects of sleep deprivation
People often think that reduced sleep for a little while won’t have any impact on them because they are resilient. In reality, insufficient sleep has negative effects even if it is just a few nights in a row. Healthline.com explains that:
“Your body needs sleep, just as it needs air and food to function at its best. During sleep, your body heals itself and restores its chemical balance. Your brain forges new connections and helps memory retention. Without enough sleep, your brain and body systems won’t function normally. It can also dramatically lower your quality of life. A review of 16 studies found that sleeping for less than 6 to 8 hours a night increases the risk of early death by about 12 percent.”
When we don’t get enough sleep, there are many negative side effects. According to Healthline.com, some of those are:
- Trouble with thinking and concentration
- More accidents
- Mood swings
- Weakened immunity
- High blood pressure
- Increased risk of heart disease and diabetes
- Weight gain
- Poor balance
What a bad set of side effects from just insufficient sleep!
Let’s see how sleep improves leadership!
It is obvious that when we don’t get enough sleep, we are not at our best. So how does this relate to leadership? How is it that sleep improves leadership? Here are five reasons why sleep improves leadership.
1. More Mental Clarity
Sufficient sleep allows us to have a sharper focus and keep the big picture in mind. When I think about the times I’ve been most stressed, emotional, or lost sight of the big picture, they were always times when I didn’t get enough sleep. Sleep improves leadership by giving us more mental clarity and focus to deal with leadership challenges.
2. Better health and less illness
As mentioned above, sleep deprivation causes many health problems and even long-term illness. When you struggle with these challenges, it is hard to think about your leadership responsibilities. Sleep improves leadership since it helps you to stay healthier.
3. More emotional control
When we are tired we often are more emotional. We tend to get into our heads too much and overanalyze every situation. Often we let our negative thoughts and emotions take over. We lose sight of the big picture and focus on a few small negative things that didn’t go well. Additionally, we often more reactive and lose our patience instead of staying calm and proactive.
Sleep improves leadership because it gives us more focus and control of our emotions. It helps us be more calm and in control of our thoughts and actions which in turn helps us think more positively.
4. Greater personal safety
Regardless of your career or occupation, personal safety is very important. The last thing anyone wants is to get hurt on their job and not go home in the same condition they arrived.
Sleep deprivation decreases our alertness which leads to more careless actions and accidents. When we have an accident or get hurt, we can’t function as a leader to the best of our abilities. Therefore, sleep improves leadership because it allows us to be alert and attentive to our surroundings which minimizes accidents.
5. Increased Leadership Impact
There are so many benefits to getting enough sleep. The best benefit is that sleep improves leadership by enabling us to have an increased leadership impact. When we get enough sleep, we are alert and attentive, think clearly, can strategize for the benefit of our team, and have the mental clarity to be great leaders. That allows us to focus on our team and get the most out of ourselves and our team.
How Sleep Deprivation Nearly Cost Me My Life
Several years ago, I was working regular long hours. I was burning the candle at both ends and had zero margin in my life. I was pretty much either eating, sleeping, or working. And, I was cutting into my sleep to get more work done. I was only averaging between 4-6 hours of sleep a night. I was constantly tired and very sleepy while doing everything I could to be productive.
During this time, there were multiple occasions where one small mistake made me go to the worst possible outcome in my head. In my mind, that one small and insignificant mistake was going to cost me my job. That would lead to my family and I being put on the streets. All that was a completely unrealistic fear.
The struggles didn’t stop there… I found I was less attentive to the needs of my team and less patient when they had questions. Not qualities of a great leader…
The worst happened one morning when I was driving into work. I was driving along just as focused or unfocused as I had been during that time. I looked ahead and saw two green lights and went back into my lack of sleep driving coma. Before I knew it, I was going through a stale yellow to red light and nearly got hit by a large semi truck. That scared me and gave me a wake up call that I needed to get more sleep. No job, no matter how important, was worth my life.
Since that time, I have done my very best to get more sleep on a consistent basis.
Sleep improves leadership in a variety of ways. I encourage each of you to get the sleep you need each night so you can be the best leader you can be!
What benefits have you experienced from getting enough sleep? How has your leadership suffered from sleep deprivation? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!