How many times have you thought to yourself “If I push through one more hour, I will finish everything I set out to achieve”? You probably even feel like you are being more productive when you skip out on sleep to finish up work, but compromising on sleep actually hinders our leadership abilities.
Being an effective leader isn’t just about talent, confidence, and a poised demeanor. In fact, getting a good night’s sleep and effective leadership go hand in hand. The prefrontal cortex is the part of our brain that is in charge of higher-order cognitive processes, including problem-solving, planning, organizing, executing, and reasoning. Our leadership behaviors rely closely on the prefrontal cortex and without it, we wouldn’t be able to get anything done. And while other parts of the brain can carry on with little sleep, the prefrontal cortex cannot, which causes our leadership skills to suffer when we sleep poorly.
Here are three ways that getting better sleep can make you a better leader:
Seeking Multiple Perspectives
Leaders must be able to seek multiple perspectives when coming up with solutions in order to come to more accurate conclusions, reduce biases, and avoid tunnel vision. Sleep has been shown to improve decision making in such situations. When there is a lack of sleep, leaders struggle to both encode and consolidate new information and remember that information when making important decisions. You’ve probably heard the phrase rather than making an important decision, you should sleep on it and science supports this commonly heard advice.
Many of the cognitive functions that help us solve problems effectively, including pattern recognition, insight, and the ability to come up with innovative and creative ideas are dependent on sleep. A study even revealed that a getting a good night’s sleep leads to new insights. Study participants who slept well were twice as likely to discover a hidden shortcut in a task than those who did not. Other research shows that creative thinking often happens during the dream state of sleep, which allows unassociated information to be integrated into ways that result in creative solutions.
With power comes great responsibility, and as a leader, there are many people that you are responsible for. In order to help others, you must first understand them. In doing so you may have to interpret your employee’s body language, tone of voice, and even emotions. But in a sleep-deprived state, your brain is more likely to misinterpret such cues and even overreact to emotional events. You may even express your feelings in a more negative manner or tone of voice. A recent experiment revealed that employees feel less engaged with their work when their leaders are sleep deprived.
When leaders are well-rested they are able to function at their best. However, for some leaders sleep doesn’t come naturally. If you are struggling to catch some ZZZ’s check out these helpful tips below:
- Exercise daily. Whether it’s going to the gym or taking a walk around the block, any activity is better than none.
- Avoid naps. If you have trouble sleeping, you should avoid naps, especially in the afternoon. You may find that power napping helps get you through the day, but if you are having trouble falling asleep at bedtime, eliminating even short naps can help.
- Evaluate your bedroom. Make sure that your bedroom is designed to establish the conditions you need for sleep. Keep your bedroom cool (between 60-67 degrees), remove any noisy items that can disrupt your sleep, and keep the lights dim.
- Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows. Most good quality mattresses have a life expectancy of about 9 or 10 years. Check your mattress for any lumps, rips, or tears and make sure that it is comfortable and supportive. Comfortable pillows are a must too! Check out these great options here, perfect for side, back, and stomach sleepers.
*This is a guest article written by Mindy Volcko.