Most leaders do not get enough sleep. Consequently they are neither as successful or satisfied as they could be. By that I mean they don’t get enough quality sleep to function at the top of their game.
When you are sleep deprived, you become more emotional, more irritable, and less clearheaded. You’re more likely to make mistakes and less likely to communicate efficiently. You are less effective as a leader.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), 60% of Americans report having sleep problems and about 40% of adults experience daytime sleepiness severe enough to interfere with their daily activities.
Are you sleep deprived? The APA reports that how much sleep adults need does vary, but not as much as you believe to be the case. In general, most of us are built for 16 hours of wakefulness, Some can do well with as little as six hours of sleep while others can’t perform at peak unless they’ve slept ten. You need to know what’s right for you specifically.
As a former Wellness Advisor to Tempur-Pedic, I’ve learned that there are a lot of things you can do to reduce your sleeplessness. Here are six places to start:
1. De-Stress before you hit the sack — Often when we are just about to nod off, something pops into our mind and gets it engaged. Whether that something is positive or negative, it’s not good to become engaged mentally when you’re trying to sleep. Fix this behavior by developing a pre-sleep habit: About half an hour before going to bed, go to a quiet place where you can stretch out and then meditate on all those things you need to get closure on for the day. Dealing with them proactively allows you to put them away for the day; you’re more likely to sleep deeply.
2. Bedroom basics — Everyone knows it’s supposed to be quiet and dark, but many use an alarm clock with an LED. This can affect your sleep in two ways: First, it may light up the room so you are not in as dark an environment as possible. Second, we often develop a habit of “checking the time” when we surface for a moment — thus kick-starting our brain with thoughts about what has to be done tomorrow. Result: quality sleep is interrupted; you’re tired even though you may have spent a lot of hours in the bed.
3. You are what you drink — Caffeine can keep you awake, and it can stay in your body up to 14 hours, so a coffee at noon can be affecting you at midnight. Alcohol can help you fall asleep, but as it clears your system it can disturb sleep with sweats, headaches, and nightmares.
4. Pets will disrupt your sleep — Most people awaken slightly as their pets move around. They’ll tell me they don’t mind because they love their pet. Just know that this affects your performance — on a few levels.
5. You may not be allergic to sleep, but allergies can contribute significantly to poor quality sleep. If you have difficulty staying asleep with the windows open, it could have a lot to do with allergens floating in from outside. Likewise, many foods and drinks (especially wine) are very likely to cause a slight allergic reaction, such as stuffiness, that can ruin your night.
6. Take the TV out of the bedroom — While you may think it helps you to fall asleep, the research on this is clear. It can cause disruptive sleep, regardless of what you’ve watched.
If you wake up and can’t fall back to sleep, get out of bed for a while. Avoid creating any habit of laying awake reading, worrying, or watching TV.
If you seriously want a life that is well lived, start sleeping better.
Here’s to your future!