I love sleep. My life has a tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?”Ernest Hemingway
You’ve heard it all before, but if there’s one thing I see in effective leaders I’ve worked with, it is a constant supply of energy to get the job done. and I want to explore here why getting a good night’s sleep is one of the best ways to create that energy bank.
Now if you were a giraffe, a good night’s sleep would be 3 hours. A cat and you’re looking at around 16, and a python sleeps for around 18 hours a day – which I’m sure other animals are very happy about.
When is comes to humans, the number of hours sleep you need is personal, some can survive on 6, others need 9. But let’s not look at this from a survival perspective, let’s look at how you can thrive. But before we go there, let me share why I know that sleep is essential.
Many years ago, when diagnosed with chronic fatigue, I was sitting in front of an occupational psychologist and he asked me
“Do you wake up feeling refreshed?”
At the time I had no idea what he was talking about. It hadn’t even occurred to me that you could wake up refreshed. I worked hard, went out every night and loved life. I didn’t realise that the annoying, constant flu-like symptoms that I was suffering with was my respiratory system hanging out the “I’ve had enough” white flag.
The result was I had to take a month off, a part-time return and no overseas travel for 3 months. In a job that required constant international travel it was – ironically – a wake up call.
And I learned a lot from the experience. There are many ways you can increase energy levels but I quickly learned that the fundamental, standout obvious one was to get a good night’s sleep.
But how do you get a good night’s sleep, time and again?
It took me while to navigate work and life in a way that is energy giving, rather than energy consuming. I’ve learned to be highly observant of what works and what doesn’t and constantly shift and reframe. The respiratory system occasionally squeaks, but on the whole, my energy is good.
It won’t be a surprise to you that the whole experience got me very interested in the power of sleep.
So why does getting a good night’s sleep matter?
What happens when we sleep well?
- Your immune system is nourished – animals deprived entirely of sleep die in just a week
- Your craving for sugar and caffeine drop
- Your memory is sharper
- Your brain plasticity (the ability to learn and perform) is more “stretchy”
- Your mental health is soothed, irritation levels subside
- Sleep is a time for repair, for your brain to make sense of your day
Can you see how sleep is the most essential contributor to performance, whether that’s clear decision making, great judgement or simply the energy to inspire others?
Having read so far, I hope you’re now feeling motivated to do something about getting a good night’s sleep, so it’s time to
Design your own good night’s sleep plan!
Let’s look at how you can use the next 7 days, starting today, to discover what makes for a perfect night’s sleep.
Remember this is personal, so experimentation is key here.This is your plan, for your life.
My challenge to you is to put the following into practice – some are really easy, others will take a little more effort. I’ve also included some links to interesting articles for you to explore further.:
- Set a regular time that you go to bed and get up (include the weekend for this experiment) – this a great way to regulate your body .
- Sleep with the window open and help lift your concentration levels
- Switch off screens 1 hour before bed – calm that brain!
- Note what you eat and drink in the evening and what effect it has on your sleep
- Mediate ready for bed – here’s a 30 minute “Beditation” video you could try
- Monitor how exercise contributes to you sleeping well
Discipline is key with any of these. But that’s a good leadership skill anyway!
Over the next 7 days, just do two things
- Before bed make a note of what you have done that day to help you get a good night’s sleep
- When you wake in the morning give yourself a score out of 10 as to how refreshed you feel
As you go through the week reflect on what seems to make a difference and commit to building that into your daily life.
Remember, being a leader takes energy, patience, empathy, decision-making, staying one step ahead of the game – the list goes on. And each of these uses up precious energy.
And you know you don’t want to be falling apart during the day, so get some sleep 😉 .