Sleep deprivation is a modern self-inflicted contagion, where the demands of our business and social lives take over the 16 waking hours of our days. And then with our willing connivance, they encroach on the eight hours recommended by doctors and psychologists everywhere for sleep.
Good leadership is a variable from day to day and even within the day. Sometimes we are the leaders we want to be; sometimes we are not so good. The soundness and length of our sleep patterns are major causes of poor leadership behavior. A few unsatisfactory restless hours make us touchy, edgy, and irritable. The impact on our relationships is dire and all too often covert. We take on the habit of a bad sleep pattern over time, without awareness of the damage it is doing to our business, our health, and our happiness. And it’s catching! When you lead by bad example, your employees respond in kind, often becoming less engaged in your business. There is even some evidence they become less ethical.
So we have all the motivation in the world to get a good night’s sleep every night. All we are missing are the rational habits to make it so. Well, miss them no more! Here are six secrets to take you into the REM realm every time you want to go there.
1. Make a habit of going to bed at about the same time every night. Plan for eight hours of good sleep. Our minds like a predictable pattern. It makes the shift into hyper-relaxation smoother and brings on true, deep, and restorative REM sleep all the quicker. Late-night Saturdays should be an exception. But you’ll pay a high price for the consequent “social jetlag” on Monday morning if you’re not sufficiently restored to your top leadership form.
2. Avoid stimulants on your gradual glide-path to bedtime. Alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, and exercise adrenaline too close to sleep time are all anchors on the conscious mind. They keep your psychic motor running on high revs just when you need it to “park.”
3. Make a daily habit of relaxation and mindfulness meditation. This is the practice of taking control of your mind, putting it on a different level of consciousness beyond the day-to-day confusion of leading a business and being part of your social world. It is a mental discipline that enhances your decision-making, boosts your creativity, and reduces stress. Meditation also enables you to switch off mentally and slip quickly into deep restorative sleep.
4. Disconnect from all that tech! Our mobile phones and other internet devices are powerful tools but also debilitating distractions. They serve no useful purpose when you want to spend your recommended time in the REM realm. There is also growing evidence that the blue light emitted by screens inhibits the brain’s production of melatonin. This neurotransmitter is a vital ingredient in the sleep process, and the best advice is to leave all electronics out of the bedroom.
5. Get in touch with your body and nap if you need to. Several global corporations are belatedly waking up to the need for people to get sleep when their circadian rhythms demand it. Google and PWC, to name but two, now provide “nap-pods” for their associates. A twenty-minute catnap or a two-hour Spanish-style siesta can do wonders for productivity and well-being. Try it for yourself and see.
Of course, you can gain more hours on the job by starting earlier and staying later, but less and poorer sleep will make those extra hours much less productive than fewer hours with you in good leadership form. Good sleep, healthy eating, and the right exercise regimen are essential to maintaining your “production capacity” personal productivity and top leadership effectiveness.