Get Some Sleep! Why leaders need to sleep better to lead better

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In meeting young aspirational startup leaders and entrepreneurs who are just growing their businesses, I often find a common factor among these dynamic individuals that pull them down from their rise to greatness. The Lack of Sleep.

We’ve heard it said many times: “sleep is for the weak… sleep when you’re dead… hustle like there’s no tomorrow.”

It’s energizing to meet people who hustle hard but, as a business coach, I’ve seen the other end of this proverbial stick: overworked, under-slept, fatigued, overwhelmed, and on-the-brink-of-a-breakdown leaders.

In a 2017 international study, the Center for Creative Leadership found that 42% sleep for only 6 hours or less. Maybe you pride yourself on getting only 4 or 5 hours of shut-eye every night. And sure, you may feel like you’re more productive this way… meeting your deadlines on time, getting more money in, watching more movies. But what if… what if you could be better?

In a study on individuals from the US, Canada, UK, Germany, and Japan, it was found that $680 billion in GDP is lost due to sleep deprivation each year. Those who sleep less than six hours also have a 13% higher mortality risk than people who sleep at least 7 hours per night. Ouch.

Let me drive this point even further. Sleep-deprived people lose 1.5% of their productive time compared to those who sleep an average of 7-9 hours. If you multiply that across the American workforce, that is a “loss of 1.23 million working days.

Successful Entrepreneurs from Sheryl Sandberg, Jeff Bezos to Ariana Huffington have championed getting a good night’s sleep. More and more people are embracing the need for quality sleep, in fact, the global sleeping aid market size in 2019 was $78.7 billion! Before you even start needing devices to sleep, here’s why getting more hours in should be at the top of your priorities.

Sleep To Improve Thinking

Specifically – critical thinking. Lack of sleep leads to a shorter attention span. That also leads to poor reaction time. You know when you’re too drowsy and can’t pay attention to your environment. It can be harmless as missing your stop on the train or floor on the elevator. But it can also be harmful when you’re driving! But either of these instances shows just how much sleep can keep you alert and fully present as you achieve your ambitions.

Sleep For Good Health

You may already know that sleep has restorative functions, repairing the cells in your body. What you may not know is that long-term sleep deprivation (no matter how much you try to make up for it on the weekend) will always lead to burnout. How can your leadership leave a lasting legacy if you don’t look after your health?

Sleep For Better Relationships

Have you ever been so worked up that you snap at your family, coworkers, or friends? Sleep-deprived leaders can foster a toxic home and work environment. Sleeping well and positive moods go hand in hand.

Sleep For Better Leadership

Leaders who are motivational and inspirational are better rested and satisfied with their sleep. Faking motivation only goes so far. An experiment to prove this point was conducted in 2016. I encourage you to read this Harvard Business Review article which details the cost of sleep deprivation on leadership.

So, what can leaders do?

There are tons of resources helping us today to improve our sleep. But I want to leave you with this: shift your mindset on sleep. Stop thinking of sleep as a reward for a day’s work, there will be days when you don’t feel you’ve done enough.

Stop thinking of sleep as a weak man’s tonic. That reflects a wrong and unhealthy view of our bodies.

Start thinking about sleep as work, the same way you would think about going to the gym. If you need to prepare for going to the gym or going to work, think about doing the same for sleep. Set an alarm to wind down. Get a routine ready. Companies too can create metrics to reward good sleepers.

Once you change the way you view sleep, you’ll start seeing a rise in productivity, motivation, and creativity. And finally, you can say, we can be better!


Anna D. Banks is the CEO and Founder of Thrive Leadership Institute, a leading training & consulting company. She is a certified Career Coach and “48-Days to the Work You Love” Seminar Facilitator. She uses soft-skill training to help entrepreneurs drive sales and reach the next level in their personal and professional life.

With her depth of experience and passion for others comes this Free eBook: “Discover Your Purpose and Thrive in Your Life!”

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Anna D. Banks, MAS, CHBC, Copyright© October 15, 2021. All rights reserved.