According to a study from the Harvard Business Review, poor or insufficient sleep can have detrimental effects on leadership behavior. In fact, leadership actually relies on a good night’s sleep. Sleep deprivation is proven to contribute to slower brain functioning, particularly in the prefrontal cortex. This is the part of the brain responsible for several aspects of daily life including reasoning, organization, planning, and problem-solving. All of these skills are essential in order to be an effective leader. However, lack of sleep interferes with the prefrontal cortex’s ability to function, which causes our basic visual and motor skills to weaken.
On top of these skills weakening, as the prefrontal cortex continues to slow and create a tired mind, other vital behaviors begin to slow down as well. Research indicates that these effects are harmful to successful leadership. In fact, lack of sleep hinders four specific behaviors that are prominent in 89% of all effective leaders.
When it comes to supporting co-workers and fellow employees, it is important to empathize. However, the way the brain interprets facial expressions and tone of voice can be affected by sleep deprivation. This can cause misinterpretation of other’s emotions. A sleep-deprived employee will become easily frustrated with peers and more commonly express negative feelings. This can create a tense working environment and often angrier employees. Studies have also revealed that when a boss has had a restless night, their employees are not as productive or absorbed in their work. The leader’s behavior can affect the entire process and with a lack of sleep, the leader can actually create an entirely different atmosphere.
To focus on the outcome of a final product, it requires just that: focus. However, when we don’t get enough sleep, the ability to selectively focus our attention on one distinct thing is impaired. Being awake for a consistent 17 to 19 hours is the equivalent to having a blood alcohol level of 0.05% , which is the legal drinking limit in several countries. So, for the average boss who wakes up at 6 a.m. and works until 11 p.m., their behavior resembles more of an intoxicated individual rather than a functioning superior.
Sleep has been known to affect the learning process. In order to encode new information, store memories, and recover information, the brain requires sleep. These processes are not just important for absorbing information, but they are vital to examining different perspectives as well. Not only does proper sleep avoid tunnel vision, but it also reduces bias towards favorable perspectives. With a lack of sleep, effective and unbiased decision-making lags. Not praising employees for differing opinions and new ideas creates a less enthusiastic workforce, which can also result in a higher turnover rate. To avoid this situation, both listening to new information and understanding different perspectives are vital, which require sleep.
Solving Problems Effectively
Problem-solving is a necessary trait for any leader – thinking of new ideas and solutions is a primary part of any job. The prefrontal cortex plays a significant role in this skill and sleep deprivation correlates to a person’s inability to distill a clear vision and develop new innovations. Research revealed that those who obtain a full night’s rest are twice as likely to find new ways to complete a task that those who do not. Sleep enhances creative thought; therefore in order to solve problems, one must first solve the problem of sleep deprivation.
There are several ways to avoid these negative behaviors, but they all involve getting a good night’s sleep. The good news is, there are many things that you can do to improve your sleep patterns. Listed below are common sleep problems as well as helpful tips on how to overcome them in order to get the sleep that your body deserves.
• Anxiety: Try using a meditation app or stretching right before you hit the sheets.
• Busy Mind: Develop a bedtime routine to help you unwind and relax your mind.
• Discomfort: Make sure that your sleep essentials are up to date. A well-designed mattress, breathable bedding, and proper sleepwear are a must!
• Hunger: To satisfy your late night cravings, spring for a light, carb-heavy snack.
• Not Tired: Put away and turn off all electronics at least one hour before bed. Read a book to bring on the ZZZs.
• Sunday Night Insomnia: Instead of sleeping in on the weekends, wake up at the same time as you do on the weekdays.
• Temperature: In order to sleep cool and stay chill, keep your thermostat at 65 degrees.
• Noise: To cover up outdoor or indoor related disturbances, try earplugs or white noise.