You probably already know how important sleep is to your health and general well-being. You may even know that you need deep sleep every night to clear out the toxins that lead to Alzheimer’s. If you are a manager or executive of a company, you may feel that you have to choose between getting the sleep you want and doing as much work as possible. That’s what I feel, at least.
It turns out that’s the wrong way to look at it because scientific research shows exactly how much we suck at our jobs when we don’t get plenty of sleep–at least seven hours a night and ideally eight-and-a-half hours. It’s not a compromise between sleeping enough and doing the essential stuff.
A small, but growing number of Inc.com readers receive a text every day from me with a motivational or self-care micro-challenge. They often text back, and we end up having an ongoing conversation. Are you interested in joining the club? You can learn more here.) I speak with many entrepreneurs and solopreneurs who tell me getting seven to eight hours sleep each night is crucial for them to be able to perform and continue to succeed.
Some recent experiments show why that is, as physician Austin Perlmutter explains in a fascinating article on the Psychology Today website. These are scientifically proven ways in which not enough sleep can impact your leadership abilities.
1. You can’t focus.
A series of experiments at Washington State University in Spokane showed that participants who haven’t had enough sleep performed poorly on the Psychomotor Vigilance Test, a simple ten-minute test in which subjects must push a button every time a light turns on and which is widely used to measure the effects of sleep deprivation. Researchers found that those who were kept awake for more than 62 hours scored very poorly on this test. Researchers also limited some participants’ bedtime to just six hours per night for two weeks. These participants also had a poor performance, even though they weren’t feeling particularly tired. These findings are important to remember if you believe you can get six hours sleep per night.
2. You might be wrong in your judgment.
In another experiment at the University of L’Aquila in Italy, 42 subjects were restricted to five hours of sleep a night for five nights. Next, subjects were presented with 90 images that could evoke positive, neutral, and negative emotions. Subjects viewed negative images consistently in a negative light. However, when the subjects were tired they viewed negative images in a more negative light than when they had plenty of sleep. It wasn’t that tiredness made people unhappy, but the effects were the same regardless of whether participants were happy.
The implications for business leaders are clear and should concern you. Imagine how insufficient sleep could make it seem like five consecutive nights of bad news can lead to you thinking that the good news might be really bad.
3. It is impossible to solve difficult problems.
Researchers have been studying the relationship between dreams and creativity for a long time. Many of the most iconic creations of our time, such as the Beatles’ song “Yesterday”, and Google’s search algorithm, were created in dreams. Research has long suggested that creativity is crucial for solving problems. Researchers have also found evidence of a lack of deep and REM sleep.
This can make it difficult to solve complex problems. Researchers at Lancaster University in England gave a series of problems, varying in difficulty, to 63 subjects. They were able solve some problems but not all, as expected. The subjects were allowed to give another attempt, whether it was immediately or within a couple of hours. The subjects who slept better were able to tackle difficult problems they had encountered the previous day.
Do you need to be able to focus and use your judgment well? Your answer to this question is likely yes. Next time you feel the need to sleep less because of a deadline or meeting, take a second to consider what you are giving up. You might lose something more vital.
Publiated at Sun, 15 August 2021 08:06:05 +0000