I often work with leaders who want to be excellent in what they do, and they pay attention to how they can improve performance. Yet the one factor that they don’t always consider is sleep and how it may impact them. It can make a big difference to how effective you are.
Two things that are impacted by lack of sleep are attention and working memory. This can show up in your reaction time when working on relatively simple tasks. A few years ago I took part in in a TV show were we had to undertake some of the toughest scientific tests ever seen on television, and one included sleep deprivation. We were kept awake for 36 hours and then had to complete a rather boring vigilance test on a computer which lasted for 30 minutes. Then there was 30 minutes to sleep, and then the test was repeated. This process lasted six hours. It was fascinating to go through this experience and notice that whilst the first few times of doing the test I did rather badly because I could not concentrate, after about the third series of 30 minute sleep I began to improve. A little sleep, no matter how small the amount, had helped me to improve my performance.
A good nights sleep is also a key factor in your ability to learn new material. Whilst you are snoozing the brain is consolidating the learning from the day, and consolidating memories. Without the sleep, you risk not being able to learn as effectively. Whilst you might believe that having a strong cup of coffee during the day will help to keep you awake on that training course, sleep is also required as part of the process!
Lack of sleep can also affect your health. It can affect your immune system causing you to become more susceptible to illness and colds. If you are an international traveller, it can also be difficult because your body clock becomes confused with the change of time zones and the ‘jet lag’ has a profound effect on your ability to sleep well and be alert when required.
So what can you practically do if you want to get a good nights sleep? Here are some common problems that can arise and some useful steps to take to address them:
I feel anxious and cannot relax…..
I’m not tired…..
There’s too much noise…..
I can’t switch off…..
And if you are having trouble sleeping, making sure you have the right pillow can not only improve your quality of sleep but also how you feel throughout the day.
Let us know how you get on!