Having a good night rest isn’t as common as it used to be. In fact a 2019 worldwide study conducted by Princess Cruises suggests that 52% of those researched are not getting enough sleep. Sleep is an important part of our wellbeing and yet we often do not get enough of it. In 2007 Ariana Huffington (co-founder of The Huffington Post) fainted and broke her cheek bone, something she now, in part, relates to her consistent lack of proper sleep. In an interview with ABC News she shares “It’s kind of ironic because most people sacrifice sleep in the name of productivity and yet modern science is absolutely conclusive that if you don’t get enough sleep you are not going to be as productive.”

The painful truth about sleep deprivation

According to Huffington “We are in the midst of a sleep deprivation crisis, with profound consequences to our health, our job performance, our relationships and our happiness. What we need is nothing short of a sleep revolution: only by renewing our relationship with sleep can we take back control of our lives.”

Leading neuroscientist Matthew Walker has studied the impact that sleep deprivation has on us. He found that there’s a link between sleep loss and, among other things, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity and poor mental health.

Both Huffington and Walker point to serious impacts lack of sleep can have on our well-being. But why has our sleep gotten to this stage?

Why we sleep so little

In this article Matthew Walker suggests there are a combination of reasons why we sleep a lot less these days. The introduction of electricity is one of them and of course the more widespread availability of alcohol and caffeine. And let’s not forget the continuous availability of entertainment from TV, to game consoles and of course our mobile phones.

But maybe more interestingly for us as leaders is that Walker found a stigma in the western world that sleep is associated with weakness and even shame.

As he writes “We have stigmatised sleep with the label of laziness. We want to seem busy, and one way we express that is by proclaiming how little sleep we’re getting.”

In the same context, I have personally noticed a feeling of guilt for not spending time with my partner, she naturally sleeps later than me and so I am usually on my way to bed when she’s looking to spend time together to relax before she sleeps.

The times where we feel guilt and shame is where I feel we can really make a real difference. As leaders, are we really in the game to prove we are more productive than our peers or those who report to us? Moving the needle to build healthy sleep routines starts with us and the way we look at sleep.

How do we move the needle?

In the end leaders are human too and that means we make mistakes and forget the things that are important for ourselves. In an interview I recently conducted with Renee Moorefield, a leader in the area of well-being in the workplace and the founder of Be Well Lead Well, she shared the following profound statement “how we treat ourselves is how we show up to others”. With that in mind let’s look at how we can treat ourselves better when it comes to rest.

Here are my suggestions to make a good night rest a part of your daily life.

  1. Build a routine – Just like sleeping late is a routine, going to bed early can become a routine too. You may experience feeling guilty at first for missing crucial time with your family or loved ones, or for not completing more work. Which brings me to the next point.
  2. Design the space – Making sure you get a good night sleep requires a bit of thinking and designing of the space where you sleep. It has to be the space where you will get the most out of the time you sleep. Does your bedroom feel like the place where you can relax? Does your bed and mattress give you the support you need? Is it dark and quiet when the lights are off? Is your bedroom a mobile phone free space?
  3. Make yourself important – As much as sleeping early might feel like a sacrifice at first remind yourself that you do it for a reason. What is this extra sleep going to give you? You are important and you deserve that good rest your body and mind need.
  4. Do it for others – You as a leader have to show up every day for the people around you. Consider them when you know it’s time to go to bed. How will others benefit from the good rest you are giving yourself?
  5. Do it with others – Make your sleep important by talking about it with your partner. Discussing your sleep routine together will increase your chances of success and might even make it more enjoyable.
  6. Be kind to yourself – There will always be moments when a good night rest just doesn’t work. Perhaps the kids woke you up in the middle of the night. The neighbours decided to throw a party. Or you had that important meeting on your mind which made it hard to fall asleep. Be kind to yourself, feeling guilty, shame or pressure will not help you get a better sleep. Instead, recognize what you’re feeling and try again the next night.
  7. Lastly, if you are a leader (in other words if you have followers), notice how you speak about productivity and sleep. Do you boast about or share the long nights of work you go through for your organisation? Or do you discuss the challenges you have and work towards solutions that will make everyone have a better sleep?

It is time to remove the stigmas! Let’s make sleep important in our lives so we can show up refreshed and full of energy each day.

How do you make sure you get the sleep you deserve?

If you’re interested to discuss sleep or other ways to be a Thriving Leader send us a message and we’ll arrange a conversation.

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