Sleep Well, Lead Better

An international study conducted in 2017 by the Center for Creative Leadership found that among leaders, 42% get six or fewer hours of shut-eye a night. Some might even wear sleep deprivation like a badge of honor.

Insufficient sleep and fatigue lead to poor judgment, lack of self-control, and impaired creativity. Moreover, when managers lose sleep, their employees’ experiences and output are diminished too. Studies have found that when leaders show up for work unrested, they are more likely to lose patience with employees, act in abusive ways, and be seen as less charismatic. There is also a greater likelihood that their subordinates will themselves suffer from sleep deprivation—and even behave unethically. However, many leaders are completely unaware of the negative dynamic.

So how can we turn this knowledge into sustained behavior change? A first step is to come to terms with just how damaging your fatigue can be. Next, follow some simple, practical, research-backed advice to ensure that you get better rest, perform to your potential, and bring out the best in the people around you.

Fortunately, there are solutions to help leaders improve the quality and quantity of their sleep. They include sticking to a consistent bedtime and wake-up schedule, avoiding certain substances too close to bedtime (caffeine within seven hours, alcohol within three hours, and nicotine within three or four hours), and exercising (but not right before bed). Additionally, relaxation and mindfulness meditation exercises help lower anxiety, making it easier to drift off to sleep. A new branch of research is beginning to show how important it is to alter smartphone behavior too. Another overlooked tool for getting more rest is napping.

To read the full HBR article from C.M. Barnes, please click here.

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