Three Reasons You Should Get enough Sleep

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Sleep just might be the productivity superpower. No matter what kind of work you do, getting enough sleep will improve your performance. Short-changing yourself on sleep will savage your work, your team, and your health.

The Center for Creative Leadership surveyed 384 leaders about their sleep habits. They discovered they average 6.63 hours of sleep a night. Forty-two percent get six or fewer hours most nights. If that’s you, it’s time to change.

The National Sleep Foundation says adults aged 29 to 64 need 7 to 9 hours sleep a night. If you’re not getting enough sleep and especially if you’re getting less than six hours, pay attention. When you don’t get enough sleep your work, your team’s performance, and your health all suffer.

When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep, You’re Less Effective at Work

We’re all knowledge workers today. We do our best work when we can concentrate on the task at hand and avoid distractions. That’s much harder when you don’t get enough sleep. There’s more “cognitive interference.” Unwanted thoughts into your head and distract you. There’s more. According to Christopher Barnes, writing in the Harvard Business Review,

“Insufficient sleep and fatigue lead to poor judgement, lack of self-control, and impaired creativity.”

That’s not exactly a recipe for success. It’s worse if you’re responsible for the performance of a group.

When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep, Your Team Is Less Effective

When it rains on the boss, everybody gets wet. So, when you don’t get enough sleep, your team suffers.

When you don’t get enough sleep, you’re more irritable and antagonistic. That’s not good for relationships with your team. In the worst case, you’re more likely to be abusive. That’s certainly not good.

You set the example for your team. If you come in early and stay late, that’s what your team members will think you want. If you send them emails at all hours, that’s what they’ll think you want.

What you say matters, too. If you tell “war stories” about working long hours, don’t be surprised if your team members think that’s what you want. If you brag about not getting much sleep, team members will think that’s what you expect. It’s human nature. And if they adopt your bad sleep habits, they’re likely to pay the price at work and in the rest of their life, just like you.

When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep, Your Health Suffers

I’m sure you’ve heard someone justify not getting enough sleep with the line: “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” The Division of Sleep Medicine at the Harvard Medical School counters with this:

“What many people do not realize is that a lack of sleep—especially on a regular basis—is associated with long-term health consequences, including chronic medical conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease, and that these conditions may lead to a shortened life expectancy.”

Here’s the scary part. You may not know how lack of sleep affects you. If you consistently get too little sleep, you may not remember what it feels like to be fully rested.

You may think you need little sleep. There are people like that. Psychologists call them “short sleepers.” Short sleepers only need three or four hours sleep a night. You may think that’s you, but you’re probably wrong. Short sleepers only make up two to five percent of the population.

Bottom Line

A rested you is a better leader. So, get enough sleep. Your work, your team, and your health will benefit.

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What People Are Saying

Hamilton Lindley   |   09 May 2019   |   Reply

Hi Wally. Long time reader. First-time commenter. What do you think of naps at work? Daniel Pink’s book advocates for a “nappuccino” after lunch. (That’s a cup of coffee before a nap. The caffeine kicks in 25 minutes later to give you a jolt of energy). This is because seven hours after we wake up, we do some of our worst work.

Wally Bock   |   10 May 2019   |   Reply

Thanks for reading and (now) for commenting. Let’s take naps first.

I’m a devoted napper. I do pretty much what Pink describes. After lunch I drink a cup of black coffee, set the timer for 25 minutes, and take a nap. I wake up alert. I also sometimes take a nap to “reset my head.”

There are people who can’t do short naps. One person I know simply can’t awaken after 20 minutes or so, caffeine or no caffeine. When she naps, it’s Churchillian, an hour at least, followed by a slow awakening.

As for the seven hours after waking thing. My life experience and fifty-plus years of tracking my productivity tell me that, for me at least, there’s not much drop-off if I get enough good sleep.

Hope that helps. Thanks for joining the conversation.