How much sleep is enough?
Do I really need 8 hours of sleep every night to be a great leader?
You've asked it, I've asked it, and it seems that there are just as many so-called experts who have opposed this thought as there are experts who've supported it. So what's the answer?
Unfortunately, I don't have a silver bullet or a magic pill for you ... while we all have different sleep requirements and it is true that these change over the years of our lives ... adults DO need 7 - 9 hours of quality sleep per night to function at their best. And if you're going to be a great leader - you need to be at your best!
How do I know if the sleep I am getting is good quality sleep?
When you awake after a good night's sleep you feel energized, rested, and you're in a great mood. When was the last time you woke up feeling that way?
Hopefully, it was this morning ... if not, you definitely need to read on!
Physically, our bodies and in particular our brains, need sleep to restore, regenerate and refresh. Without enough sleep our cognitive processing is impaired, our mood and behavior is altered, and over the long run, our broader health, including our immune system and heart health, are adversely impacted.
There are four stages in a normal sleep cycle - and we each have several sleep cycles per night.
With the first three stages, we fall into deeper and deeper states of relaxation, our heart rate slowing, and our brain activity quietening. We then fall into the fourth state, known as REM (rapid eye movement) and this is where we dream and process memories and for us to have achieved a good quality of sleep, it is necessary to reach this stage. This is why wakefulness in the middle of the night can be problematic for good quality sleep since the REM stage is either interrupted or never reached. More information on this can be found at The Sleep Foundation website.
Why do I have so much trouble sleeping?
There have been times of my life where I was literally getting by on 4 - 5 hours of sleep a night during the week and catching up on the weekend. But it is a vicious cycle and you never really do catch-up. I had to learn the hard way to get focused on quality sleep, here are some of the most common causes for poor quality sleep. I have experienced most of these at one point in time or another.
How many of these resonate with your experiences?
These last two, in particular, are a recipe for overthinking, and as you may know, overthinking, or ruminating, has its own way of keeping us wakeful, which leads to ruminating on additional topics and replaying the day's events in our minds ... perpetuating sleeplessness even further!
How does this show up in my leadership practice?
There are three really important ways that lack of sleep can impact how you show up as a leader.
I recognize that there will be days when you may not show up at your very best. This may be due to lack of sleep, or some other stressor. That said, if you are looking to position for advancing your leadership to the next level, you'll want to have your best self show up most days with emotional intelligence, cognitive intelligence, motivation, and energy.
What are some strategies for managing bouts of sleeplessness?
Most of what I've written here won't be news to you, yet, many of us continue on in some sort of helpless fashion, and simply 'put up' with a lack of sleep, not realizing the damage that we may be doing.
It is a classic case of 'not now' bias. The impacts of continued sleeplessness and insomnia will indeed shorten our lives, yet the impact isn't felt right now, so it is somehow 'easy' for us to ignore.
Changing long held habits can be challenging, but can help you with your long-term health, as well as your leadership effectiveness today, and into the future.
Most of the strategies I offer for consideration here are aimed at one thing - getting ourselves from being 'on' and ready for a fight or flight response, to being 'off' and ready for nurturing, calming, restorative sleep.
For a deep dive on this topic, visit Dr. Michael Breus's, aka The Sleep Doctor's, website. www.the sleepdoctor.com.
Supporting you on your leadership journey,