What does great sleep mean for leaders?


Over the years, we’ve highlighted the importance of taking time out to rest and rejuvenate in order to be a more effective leader. There are many ways you can do this, from taking a holiday to investing time in a hobby, but one of the most important — and obvious — ways to rest, is by getting enough sleep each night. It may be simple, but not many leaders are heeding sleep advice, and it’s hurting their leadership. 

Why do leaders sacrifice sleep? 

According to the Sleep Health Foundation, the average Australian gets 7 hours of sleep, but 12% sleep less than 5.5 hours each night. When life and work gets busy, it’s easy for sleep to be the first thing to be culled. Even when it comes to leisure time, it’s easy to stay out for one more drink, or hit play on the next episode when you feel like you have the whole night ahead of you. After all, you can always catch up on your sleep over the weekend, or take a day off in a couple of weeks to really rest, right? 

It’s this attitude that’s letting leaders and employees all over the world down. Think back to your teenage years — they were times when not getting enough sleep meant irritability, bad attitudes, eating poorly, laziness, and low productivity. No doubt you’ve grown to value sleep a little more than your 15-year-old self did, but the results of not getting enough sleep are often similar and these behaviours in leaders can disappoint and frustrate teams. It’s time to start thinking differently about your sleep, so your leadership doesn’t suffer. 

How much sleep should you be getting? 

Many people believe that eight hours is the recommended amount of sleep each night. And, if you like your day being split evenly into thirds, this is a fine way to think about your rest. However, eight hours aren’t the same for everyone and there are other things you need to take into consideration when thinking about how to improve your sleep: 

  • Mental health. If you suffer from anxiety, depression or any other mental health issues, you may find you need more sleep than the average person. This also applies through times of temporary high stress.

  • Sleep disorders. Many people suffer from disorders like sleep apnea, sleep walking, restless leg syndrome and a whole host of other issues. These can greatly affect your quality of sleep and you need to account for them in your sleep patterns.

  • Waking hours through the night. Whether you’re partial to a midnight snack, or you find yourself awake at 3am each morning without fail, you should take these times into account when planning your sleep. 

So, what can you do to improve your sleep patterns? 

Sleep looks different for everyone, so we encourage you to think deeply about your sleep patterns and identify what needs to change so that you are getting the sleep you need to be the best leader you can be for your team. Perhaps this looks like: 

Setting boundaries: Switching your phone onto ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode after you finish your working day can help you to not be sucked into the vortex of after-hours work. You can switch it to aeroplane mode, or even place it on the other side of the room while you sleep so you’re not tempted to check your emails while you’re supposed to be getting some shut-eye. 

Discover the power of a nap: If getting a full night’s sleep isn’t possible for you, you can catch up each day with a nap rather than letting sleep deprivation build over several days or weeks. Getting in a half hour of sleep can help you to refocus and improve your memory. 

Prioritise sleep: When we plan our days, we often think work is the most important part of our schedule. Your work and leadership will suffer if you don’t have enough sleep, so start planning your days with sleep as an essential, rather than a byproduct of a busy day. 

Are you ready to improve your leadership? People Make the Difference can help. To find out more, visit www.pmtd.com.au or call us on 0412 333 415. Try our online leadership training videos – $99 for complete access. Great value if you’re committed to growing your leadership potential.