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Sleep and management

Did you know that lack of sleep can impact the way managers or directors lead their teams? Resting regulates many hormonal processes, and thus also the release of cortisol (stress hormone) or serotonin (happiness hormone). Our managing skills and decision-making processes – not only at work – depend on complex internal mechanisms, which are highly determined by effective sleep or its lack. 

How do managers sleep?

According to research conducted by Harvard Business Review, it appears that as much as 43% of people working as leaders suffer from sleep deprivation at least 4 days a week, resting for only 4-5 hours at night. The negative effects are countless: mood swings, migraines, stomach problems, lack of focus, decreased sexual drive, eyesight aggravation or putting on weight. If you want to avoid these sad consequences, you should try to get at least 7 hours of sleep every night! Weekend lie-ins could work, of course, but it’s a short-term solution. In the long run, irregular sleeping will do a lot more harm than good, because a deregulated biological clock will put us into a light sleep, switching our body into a constant standby mode. 

If we want to understand how lack of sleep clouds your leadership skills, we need to dig deeper into neuropsychology. Our cognitive abilities, such as planning, problem-solving or arriving at a conclusion are ruled by the brain’s prefrontal cortex. Its well-being defines the way you deal with everyday obstacles at work as a leader. Problems occur because sleep deprivation impacts the proper working of the prefrontal cortex, which becomes dysfunctional when your body is exhausted. As much as other parts of your brain deal better with low energy levels, prefrontal cortex needs fuel such as sleep to function properly. 

The secret of success

McKinsey Global Institute distinguished 4 types of behaviour associated with high-quality leadership, which allow leaders to succeed at work and beyond. These are:

  • the ability of active problem solving,
  • the ability to look at situations and things from different perspectives,
  • the ability to support others,
  • being result-oriented. 

You should bear in mind that the lack of an adequate dose of sleep impairs all of these areas. 

The ability to solve problems is one of the most important features of a team leader. Such skill decreases, with increased fatigue! It turns out that a short afternoon nap can improve this result by as much as half. What’s more, a tired body and a brain tend to get overly emotional reactions, which is certainly not conducive to success in the work environment. In addition, it turns out that when we are exhausted, we become less sensitive to other people’s problems. Therefore, managers cannot fully empathize with the needs of their employee or team. 

Concentration problems

Another distinguished feature desirable in high managerial jobs is the ability to look multi-dimensionally, which allows you to make better decisions and find new solutions quicker. Can sleep deprivation also affect this process? Absolutely. There’s a saying that you should “sleep on it” before making a decision. In order to clearly and objectively look at an issue, you need to focus on the task, which after 17 hours without sleep begins to deteriorate to the same degree as in people after drinking alcohol. 20 hours without sleep results in a lack of concentration similar to the concentration of 0.1% alcohol in the blood.