Importance of sleep for performance
One frequently mentioned challenge by people I meet is 'to fit it all in and get it all done' at work and in life.
In a world where there is so much to do, we can often end up short changing ourselves on sleep. Some put themselves under pressure by going to bed late for a range of reasons: Work, not being organised, staying up late watching TV, on social media, catching up on housework, chatting or socializing etc. Early morning starts for personal reasons or to complete deadlines and attend meetings can add to the problem. Others spend enough time in bed but their sleep is not restorative or they wake up in the middle the night worrying or with their mind racing.
It is no accident that sleep deprivation has been used around the world as a form of torture for millennia. Short-changing yourself on sleep can have costly repercussions in the short, medium and long-term.
A recent Harvard business review study reported that 43% of business leaders don't get enough sleep at least 4 nights a week. Neuroscience says that the pre-frontal cortex which is involved in the higher-order cognitive processes of problem solving, reasoning, organizing, inhibition, planning and executing plans does not cope well with sleep deprivation.
After 17-19 hours of wakefulness, our performance on tasks is equivalent to someone with a blood alcohol level of 0.05%. Sleep supports our problem-solving abilities by benefiting our insight, pattern recognition and ability to come up with innovative and creative ideas. A Good nights sleep helps us work better with others as sleep deprivation increases misinterpretation of emotion on the face and tone of voice. When we have less sleep, we are less likely to trust people. Employees are less engaged when their supervisor hasn't had enough sleep. Stress and sleep problems are mutually reinforcing. When we have poor sleep, our emotional activity is heightened which leads to stress which further impacts on sleep.
The 4 types of leadership behaviour most commonly associated with high-quality executive teams are: Strong orientation to results; Effective problem solving; Seek out different perspectives and Supporting others. Sleep affects them all of them Good Sleep also increases charisma
Sleep is vital and beneficial for good health and restorative functions in the body. At home, we can easily see the effects of poor sleep on family members We can feel it in our selves. Life is more fun after a good night's sleep. There are fewer frustrations. Things don't get us down so easily.
Interestingly top performing violinists are shown to sleep an average of 8.5 hours. In a study, they reported that it's the 2nd most important factor for performance after their practice. This may be the case for all of us.
If stress is preventing you from sleep there are solutions to that too. If something is stressing you, solve it. Get help if you can't do it by yourself. Stop working a few hours before bed. Do relaxing and enjoyable things in the evening. Exercise regularly. Eat well and not late. Try Meditation or relaxation practices. Read a relaxing and uplifting book before bed-time. Reflect on all the great things that happened during the day and give thanks. Don't take stimulants (coffee or alcohol) in the evening. Have a relaxing chamomile tea.
We are all wired a little differently and different habits work best for different people. It is up to you to explore and discover what works best for you. Are you like the violinists in the study ? This week, why not put it to the test for yourself. Get enough sleep each night and watch the results.