Sleep is a vital input for effective leadership. When we don't rest and recover adequately, we run on stress and emotions and make many mistakes at work. To get proper sleep and rest is to be a good leader.

Take a moment – think back to the last time you felt really, deeply rested. Maybe it was last night, the weekend, or a vacation. What did it feel like in the body? Now remember a time you stayed up all night – how did the day after feel?

Sleep is one of the most important physiological processes for human health. As one sleep expert explains, “Sleep allows us to consolidate and store memories, process emotional experiences, replenish glucose (the molecule that fuels the brain), and clear out beta-amyloid (the waste product that builds up in Alzheimer’s patients and disrupts cognitive activity).”

Yet too little of us get enough healthy sleep, which is estimated to be on average 7-8 hours a night. An international study found that 42% of leaders get less than 6 hours of sleep a night.

Leaders need to adequately sleep to be effective at work.

The effects can be devastating – it is no accident that sleep deprivation is used as a torture mechanic or that airline pilots have mandated sleep safety standards.

Sleeping 4-5 hours a night drives the same cognitive effects as having a blood alcohol level of 0.10%! And like a drunk person who can’t assess how drunk they are… a tired person cannot assess how dysfunctional they really are. Driver fatigue leads to 1.35 million car accidents in the United States alone. Sleep deprivation increases blood pressure, obesity, poor judgement, and lack of self-control.

This is mirrored in leadership – lack of sleep leads to impatience, irritability, and antagonism. Leaders who do not sleep are more abusive to their teams. Additionally, leaders who do not sleep act less ethically.

If you care about yourself, your performance, your team or more broadly being an ethical leader, time to invest in proper sleep!

Try It Out

For the next 3 days…

Challenge yourself to sleep 7-9 hours every night. Upon waking in the morning do not check your phone. Allow yourself to fully come awake – check-in with yourself.

  • What do you notice physically in your body? Where do you experience energy and where do you feel physically tired?
  • What emotions are you experiencing? Are you calm or agitated?
  • What is the quality of your mental state? Do you experience intrusive thoughts?

After 3 days, notice, what did these check-ins reveal? How did this support you?