Why Sleep is So Important for Leaders


Experts have long recommended a nightly eight hours of sleep, but many people fail to achieve that amount. After all, work demands, family needs, and social commitments can easily consume more than the leftover 16 hours. Besides, you might feel that you function adequately on four to five hours of sleep. Red-eye flights and changes in time zones might seem normal to you. All-nighters would probably be no stranger to you, in this case. But what impact is it having on your leadership?

Lack of Sleep is a Widespread Problem

Sleep advocates are growing in number, but a significant percentage of people in the United States, executives most notably among them, do not appear to be achieving their optimal quota of sleep. According to information reported by the National Health Interview Survey, Americans in increasing numbers are getting only the barest minimum amount of sleep for most people, 6 hours. In 1985 the percentage was 22%, while in 2012 it was 29%. Meanwhile, even worse results came from a 2017 international study from the Center for Creative Leadership. Among leaders, 42% manage six or fewer sleeping hours a night.

The Boons of Sleep and the Costs of its Lack

Most people are aware of some of rest’s benefits as well as the costs of not getting sufficient rest. In sleep, we consolidate memories and store them while processing emotional experiences. We replenish glucose, which fuels our brains, and clear out the waste product beta-amyloid, which builds up, disrupting cognitive activity, in Alzheimer’s patients. On the other hand, fatigue due to insufficient rest leads to a lack of self-control, impaired creativity, and poor judgment. The problems do not stop with the person at the top, either; the effects of poor sleep trickle down through the ranks.

Altering Behaviors

The first step to effecting useful change is recognizing the necessity for that change. Leaders need to acknowledge just how damaging their fatigue can grow to be. This is true beyond a personal level. Those who work for a sleep-deprived leader show diminished output and experiences. To be an effective leader, you need sufficient sleep.

Supervisor Behavior

Supervisors tend to be portrayed as stable over a period of time; while some bosses are good, others are simply poor at leadership. This does not hold true and recent studies show it. Individual behavior is capable of varying dramatically as days and weeks progress. This variance can, in part, be due to the quality of the leader’s sleep. Studies point to leaders showing up unrested and then losing patience with their employees and acting out in abusive ways. They are seen as overall less charismatic. The subordinates of sleep-deprived managers are also more likely to be sleep-deprived themselves, with all the associated side effects.

How Lack of Sleep Impacts Management

Without proper sleep, managers cannot motivate or inspire as well. When leaders portray positive emotion, their subordinates feel better, perceiving those leaders as charismatic. Without sufficient sleep, most people feel less positive, impacting their ability to manage or counterfeit moods. Pulling oneself out of a funk induced by insomnia is quite difficult.


Some solutions to lack of proper sleep are fairly well-known and simply are not put into practice. Limiting the intake of caffeine within seven hours of bedtime, alcohol within a few hours, and nicotine within several hours of bedtime are all beneficial. So is exercise, so long as it is during the day or early evening and not too close to the hours of intended slumber. Relaxation techniques such as meditation lower anxiety and help prepare the mind and body to relax into sleep as well. A proper mattress will assist in achieving sleep and maintaining it. So will cutting screen use close to sleep.

Good management skills depend on the ability to communicate clearly both ideas and emotions. Clear thinking, engaged creativity, and charisma all play into this ability. These three elements rely upon a sound night’s sleep. Join famous leaders such as Bezos of Amazon in making sleep a priority.


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