Sleep is of the brain, by the brain and for the brain! Consider last month. How many times did you work through the night to deliver a project on time or please your boss with that important presentation? But how many times did you reboot your computer or phone to make it work more effectively? If you’re willing to be gentle with your electronic devices, why aren’t you doing the same for your brain?!
For a decade I worked in an investment bank, where the culture of sleeping deprivation is tolerated – when not encouraged – as in many other kinds of global businesses – consulting, law, accountancy for example. We felt like all-powerful warriors against the terrible monster of sleep, and I was great at it! But in reality we’re merely fighting against ourselves and our wellbeing. In those days, a 12 hour day was standard, which seems long to some, but wasn’t too bad compared to the corporate finance folk working 14 - 16 hours a day plus all the weekends god could send.
Competition is tough and joining a big global corporate can be very demanding, but no job can ever be more important than ones physical health, mental sanity and life.
Equally, if you’re an entrepreneur things can become challenging when you’re raising your “baby”, sacrificing everything for it: sleep, health, relationships.
Let me be crystal clear: sleeping deprivation is bad for business and here is exactly why.
1. Brain Fog
Ever experienced a lack of mental clarity, memory problems or inability to focus? The regular phenomenon of “brain fog” is associated with stress, hormonal changes and sleep deprivation. The prefrontal cortex shrinks and we are simply not able to cope with information in the same way. Not getting enough sleep impairs our reasoning capacity, compromises memory and decreases our concentration (Ellenbongen, 2005).
2. Poor Decision Making & Problem Solving
Would you ever go to the office drunk? Errrrmmm I have to be honest and admit that in the old days I did that many times! One study demonstrates that even moderate sleep deprivation produces the same effects to the body and mind as moderate alcohol intoxication (Williamson, Feyer, 2000). You’re more likely to make bad decisions and fail to solve basic problems, just like I would be on an unfortunate drunk night out 20 years ago!
3. Lack of Resilience
Resilience is fundamental 21st century life skill we need to face any challenging situation. Developing it as a skill helps us ease stress levels and cope better both at home and in the office. Research on Vietnam veterans showed clearly how sleep deprivation negatively affects our ability to bounce back (Segovia et al., 2013).
4. Poor Performance
Our Personal and Professional Performance requires our brain to be in it's best shape possible. How can we expect to be on top of our game when the body and mind are absolutely exhausted? Science shows that lack of sleep leads to poor performance and more frequent mistakes (Althoff et al., 2017).
Ever berated a colleague ‘cos you were over tired and desperately needed some extra shut eye? Before you eat your intern’s head next time, go home and have a good night’s sleep! One study confirmed that we often unconsciously avoid people who look tired exactly because we don’t want to deal with moody people (Sundelin et al., 2017)! Even worse - when we’re absolutely exhausted we completely loose our empathy as we can’t even recognise certain facial expressions – like sadness and happiness (Killgore et al., 2017).
So what functions make an employee extraordinary? And what are the desired qualities we all look for in a leader? Clear mind, firm attitude and smart choices, empathy, resilience and great performance.
What are you waiting for? Sleep more to be a better leader!