“I sleep like a baby.  Every couple of hours I wake up crying.”

I hadn’t heard that old joke for a couple of years.  This time, it was the City Manager of a mid-size Canadian city who told it.  It reminded me that, for organizational leaders especially, it’s amazing just how much truth it holds.  Maybe not the crying part, but certainly the waking-up aspect.

At my coaching practice, we go beyond the common tactics of traditional coaches who focus mostly on just  life issues or only career guidance like management styles or communication tactics.  We use The Four Windows Method of coaching.  This approach, which is much broader in outlook than traditional executive coaching processes, asks the client to consider critical personal and financial aspects of their life in addition to what happens each day on the job.  Sleep habits are one of those very-important-for-success aspects we work on.

A lack of truly refreshing sleep will ultimately catch up on you.  Whoever you are, in whatever role.  Without regular, deep sleep, your performance flags.

Today, with a real unemployment rate of over 10%, organizations don’t have any incentive to keep you around.  Consequently the issue of just how well-rested you are has become a big deal when it comes to career management.  It’s no longer just a “nice to have.”   Quality sleep, in today’s business environment, has moved into the realm of a “must have”.  And all the evidence supports this.  This year’s Wellness Survey created by Tempur-Pedic, (for whom I’m a Wellness Advisor,) noted that well-rested individuals are: less emotional, more creative, and better able to deal with job demands.

Using that survey, with some additional insight, and another study completed by the Harvard Medical School Division of Sleep Medicine, here are 8 suggestions and observations you should noodle.  Read them before you find yourself wondering why you didn’t get that last promotion:

1. Missing just a few hours of sleep each night, for just 1 week – will give you what GQ magazine called, “the cognitive ability of someone who just chugged 5 beers.”  Imagine how much it impacts those who rarely get more than 5 hours each night.
2.  If you regularly need to sleep in, you may be sleep deprived.  The average working person needs 7 to 8 hours a day to perform at their best.  When clients tell me they don’t need more than 5, I immediately look for emotionality and physical telltales like bags under their eyes, or paunches from over-eating.  I usually find them.  And if I don’t, I ask them about their personal life.  I often find that they don’t have one, which is no surprise.
3.  Immediately after waking up, stay in bed and focus on what  today has in store for you.  Get clear about what’s needed and what you want to accomplish – before getting up.  This process is used by the power performers to visualize priorities, what to focus on, and how to deal with potential obstacles.
4.  Determine when you are the smartest. Most of us have “day parts” when we are simply “hotter” than other parts of the day.  Do you know what part of the day you have the most energy and when getting  things done seems “easier”?  If it’s the morning, that’s when you should tackle the big things.  You’ll see a faster and better outcome than if you put them off until later when you may be slowing down mentally and physically.
5. Naps are fine. And they’re not just for wimps – the U.S. Marines are big advocates of naps for reinvigorating. Twenty minutes or so will recharge you and give you an extra boost to make it through the whole day at peak level.  And don’t tell me that there is no place to nap where you work.  Get creative and you’ll figure it out:  If necessary, consider places like the bathroom, the car, a lunchroom, on the steps outside (use sunglasses) – wherever.
6. What about your bed? Still sleeping on something that doesn’t take into account the demands on your life?  This one is obvious – but rarely acted on.  In the above study by TempurPedic, 92% of respondents said that they know their performance on the job has been affected by poor sleep.  Invest in a good bed.  And, by the way, most traditional beds, even expensive ones, should be replaced every seven years.
7.  Have a schedule. Go to bed about the same time each night.  I understand this isn’t always possible, but it’s important that you get into a regime.  More REMs make you more creative and faster thinking and they are positively impacted by regular bedtime and wake-up cycles.
8. Exercise really helps. Clients often tell me they don’t have time for regular exercise, and then they’ll complain that they are always tired.  These 2 things are often inter-related.  We push our brains all day and get wiped out.  But, because our bodies are not exhausted, or even challenged, by sitting all day long we can find ourselves waking up all night and “thinking”.  Help your body to help you – do something physical.  I am a huge advocate of Bikram Yoga and practice it myself.  Not for wimps and great for both women and men. Plus you don’t need to be a jock to get into it.

Here’s to your success!


Leadership Coach