By G. A. FINCH
Like many erstwhile self-imposed Type-A Personality workaholics, I would burn the candles at both ends making myself feel self-important and indispensable. Of course, the result was sleep deprivation. Several years ago, I started seeing a lot of articles and reports about the ill-effects of insufficient sleep. The lack of sleep had many real life health consequences like weight gain/obesity. It seemed counterintuitive. One would think one burns more calories the less still one is. Apparently, sleep affects metabolism. Sleep deprivation obviously impacts cognitive functions and moods. We know fatigued drivers cause accidents and sleepy babies become fussy. We know sustained sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture.
In analyzing my mental agility and stamina in relation to the number of hours I slept in a night, I discerned that five hours were too few and eight hours were optimal. I resolved to get a good night sleep every night when possible. I turn into a pumpkin around 10:00 p.m. anyway, so keeping this resolution was easy to do. What happened? I have become a true believer. The additional hours of sleep resulted in my:
- Being more alert throughout the day
- Being more productive
- Having more stamina
- Having a sustained cheerful mood
- Getting sick less often
- Having more energy to exercise
- Having a higher tolerance for stressful stimuli.
These benefits are substantially symmetrical to the benefits noted in my earlier blog article about exercise. Sufficient sleep and sufficient exercise are two sides of the same coin, both contributing to overall physical and mental well-being. This well-being provides a foundation to maximize one’s overall performance at work and at play.
Most executives don’t talk about how much sleep they get a night. They may mention going to bed late, getting up in the middle of the night, waking early, or “sleeping in” on a weekend day. You usually don’t hear people quantifying the average number of hours they sleep each night. So it is hard to know what effective leaders are doing in terms of enough sleep. Of course, people are variable, so I expect each individual’s need for sleep or each individual’s tolerance for insufficient sleep will also be variable.
I suspect everyone has an optimal number of hours of sleep that is his or her sweet spot in well-being. What’s yours? I know my night-owl wife needs less sleep than I.
In any event, I can corroborate that the literature on the salutary effects of sufficient sleep is correct. A good night’s sleep makes me better at what I do.