If you’re a leader with poor sleep habits, what can be done?
I invite my coaching clients who have sleep issues to consider the following, evidence-based approach to better sleep:
- Maintain a consistent bedtime schedule; try not to vary much between days of the week and the weekends
- Develop a bedtime routine to cue one’s body and prime it for sleep; consider reading, listening to relaxing music, bathing, etc.
- Restricting food and alcohol intake to 3-4 hours prior to sleep
- Exercise, but earlier in the day, and not before bedtime
- Meditative practices that can prime the para-sympathetic nervous system for sleep; I recommend Yoga Nidra.
- Covering any digital device in the bedroom so that the blue night is not emitted.
“Melatonin is a crucial biochemical involved in the process of falling asleep, and light (especially blue light from screens) suppresses its natural production. In research focused on middle managers, Klodiana Lanaj, Russell Johnson, and I found that time spent using smartphones after 9 pm came at the expense of sleep, which undermined work engagement the next day.”
- Nap when possible
“A nap can speed up cognitive processing, decrease errors, and increase stamina.”
Even a 20-minute doze can be helpful at work. The article points out that in other cultures, napping has been considered normal. Now some American leaders are jumping on board. “Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, is a nap proponent, and organizations such as Google and PriceWaterhouseCoopers have nap pods for employees, understanding that 20 minutes of downtime can make people more effective and productive for many more hours that day.”
It’s important for leaders to model effective sleep habits. “For pro-sleep role models, look to CEOs such as Ryan Holmes of Hootsuite (“It’s not worth depriving yourself of sleep for an extended period of time, no matter how pressing things may seem”); Amazon’s Bezos (“Eight hours of sleep makes a big difference for me, and I try hard to make that a priority”); and Huffington, the CEO of Thrive Global, who wrote a whole book on the subject.”
Yes, we’ve all felt how much more we could do if we just needed less sleep, and sometimes we act as if we really don’t. But are you aware that your leadership depends on your being rested, in ways you may not have imagined. As Bezos says, “Making a small number of key decisions well is more important than making a large number of decisions. If you shortchange your sleep, you might get a couple of extra ‘productive’ hours, but that productivity might be an illusion.” Even worse, as my research highlights, you’ll negatively affect your subordinates.”