It goes without saying that being a leader is hard work. Unfortunately, when company leaders burn the midnight oil too often and leave sleep behind, they can end up doing more harm than good – not only to their bodies, but to their businesses. ‘Bragging’ about the lack of sleep you get can seem like a competition where the person who works more hours is the champion. But according to science, when you sleep better, you lead better.
In a study conducted for Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, researchers asked 384 leaders and professionals about their sleep patterns, beliefs, attitudes, and problems across different leadership levels. 42 percent of participants reported getting 6 hours of sleep each night or fewer, and 31 percent reported having trouble sleeping at least a few nights each week.
So how does this lack of sleep impact leaders? Researchers conducted a longitudinal field experiment with 223 participants. Participants completed a survey about their sleep habits and were then were randomly assigned to either be given access to sleep therapy or not. Ten weeks later, participants were sent a second survey. The results showed that participants who received the sleep treatment demonstrated better organizational citizenship, a less-negative affect on company operations, and overall better job satisfaction.
“In addition to environmental sustainability, managers should consider human sustainability,” says Christopher Barnes, an Associate Professor of Management at University of Washington, “Sleep is an important part of that equation.”
Having a lack of sleep can also impact your charisma. Less sleep can cause leaders to appear less articulate and less smart. This can make people more hesitant to do business with them, and can also dull their self-control. And since signs of fatigue are often so apparent, working for a sleep deprived boss can lead employees to reject sleep, which can negatively impact their health and production.
So, after reading this, you’ve realized that you need to make some major changes to your sleep schedule to better your physical and company health. Now what do you do?
Implement a few sleep-enhancing practices to get better shut eye each night. Applying mindfulness practices by paying attention to the present moment instead of the future can make it easier to fall asleep at night. Another practice you can incorporate is boundary management: a cognitive and social technique that encourages building healthy barriers between work and personal life. After examining your current boundary practices, compare the boundaries you already have in place with your ideal preference for setting boundaries, and make a note of what changes would need to be made to align current practices with your ideal.
Change doesn’t happen in a vacuum: speak with your family and colleagues about how to help keep you accountable. Your body – and your business – will thank you.
Kayla Heisler is an essayist and Pushcart Prize-nominated poet. She is a contributing writer for Color My Bubble. Her work appears in New York's Best Emerging Poets anthology.