In American culture today, it’s common for us to equate success with working an insane amount of hours. Naturally this means that we give up a lot of sleep in the name of getting things done. However, is this really accomplishing as much as we think?
The Cost of Sleep Deprivation
Being an effective leader depends heavily on your brain’s ability to preform executive functions. Executive functioning happens in the prefrontal cortex which is an area of the brain that suffers with shortages of sleep. If you’re thinking big picture on this, your organization will suffer if your leaders are not able to lead with optimal brain processing.
According to a sleep survey done by Els van der Helm and Nick van Dam, two thirds of leaders felt generally dissatisfied with their sleep both in quantity and quality. If two thirds of leaders around the world are experiencing this sleep deprivation, the cost is enormous. Here are a few ways in which sleep deprivation effects our leadership:
FOCUS – In order to have a productive day, you’ve got be able to eliminate distractions, be conscious of the big picture and stay honed in on your priorities. When we suffer from sleep deprivation, our ability to this is greatly impaired. I’m sure you’ve heard it said, and it’s true, that when you’re running on just a little bit of sleep you’re basically functioning as if you were drunk. In other words, if you’re going to lose sleep, you might as well be drinking on the job.
SOCIAL INTERACTION – According to van der Helm and van Dam, your brain is likely to misinterpret social cues which could lead to an overreaction or inappropriate response to emotional stimuli. Additionally, we’re more likely to express a more negative tone of voice in regards to how we feel when we’re tired. Basically, when we’re sleep deprived we have a more difficult run at navigating our relationships in a healthy way.
Not only does this effect your ability to function, but it also directly effects your employees ability to function as well. According to a recent experiment, employees actually felt less engaged with their job when it was obvious that their leader hadn’t had a good night’s sleep.
PROBLEM SOLVING & PERSPECTIVE – According to neuroscientist Penelope Lewis, “Sleep-deprived people come up with fewer original ideas and also tend to stick with old strategies that may not continue to be effective.” We have to be good problem solvers if we’re going to lead well. Subordinates look to the leader for the answers and the direction, which is not something that can be provided well by a sleep deprived person.
Additionally, there is a greater chance that we’ll make a bad, risky decision when we’re overly tired. Research indicates that insufficient sleep will impair our decision making skills, especially when financial rewards are at stake. In order for leaders to make the right call, they have to have perspective. Limited sleep limits their ability to do just that.