The “Invisible” Productivity Solution…Sleep!

By Susan Battley

There’s something more than a little discouraging about presenting to a room full of yawning professionals at 8.30 AM. And especially if the topic is executive productivity. So, finding myself in this situation, I started off by polling the group on how many hours of sleep they typically got a night. No one admitted to more than seven hours. Some claimed they got by very well on five hours. But the yawns and lack of energy in the room told another story. This was a seriously sleep-deprived group.

Let’s look at some basic truths. No one can perform at peak levels without adequate sleep. And getting sufficient sleep is one of the most powerful ways to insure that you are mentally sharp, even-tempered, and stress resilient.

Sleep is the “invisible” productivity solution. Yet we tend to undervalue it, or delude ourselves into thinking we can function well without enough of it. It’s a solution that hides in plain sight.

Adults typically require between seven and eight hours a night. Research shows that getting less than six hours a night can affect coordination, reaction time and judgment. Mental alertness and high-level thinking tasks suffer. Sleep deprivation can pose as much of a risk as alcohol impairment.

Are Americans having trouble getting sleep? You bet. In 2005, 42 million prescriptions for sleep medication were written, up 60 percent from 2000. This translates into more than $2 billion of sleeping pills.

Costs of Drowsiness to Professional Productivity

  • Reduced efficiency in completing work
  • Poor decision quality
  • Increased errors and accidents
  • Irritable mood
  • Overeating, obesity and diabetes
  • Depressed immune system
  • Reduced stress tolerance

Conversely, with adequate sleep you’re more efficient, creative, focused, and energetic. Sleep is also essential to consolidating new information and learning. For talented professionals, this translates into performing at your personal best. For leaders and managers, this means being optimally effective as decision-makers. And judgment, after all, is the cornerstone of effective leadership and senior teamwork.

“It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning
after the committee of sleep has worked on it.”
– John Steinbeck

How to Sleep Your Way to Success

The benefits of a good night’s sleep have been extolled by scientists, philosophers and artists throughout the ages.

Here are three proven tips to achieve this desired state:

1. Buy a new mattress. The mattress is the most used piece of furniture in the home. The average person spends one-third of his or her life in bed. Yet many people replace their cars more often than their beds.

2. Keep technology at bay. Banish your Blackberry, IPhone, and computer from your sleeping area. These are distractions and temptations that compete with sleep. They have to go.

3. Avoid bright lighting at night. Research shows that bright lights interfere with the body’s natural biorhythms and sleep clock. So dim those room lights.

It’s no exaggeration that you can sleep your way to success. Moreover, as the 16th century philosopher Gracian noted, “ It is better to sleep on things beforehand than lie awake about them afterwards.”

Sleep well, sleep enough!

Copyright © Susan Battley, PsyD, PhD. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Susan Battley

An advisor to Fortune 100 executives and world-class institutions for more than twenty years, Dr. Susan Battley is an internationally recognized expert on CEO and leadership effectiveness. Her clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional service firms, and elite research institutions. She has worked with chief executives, university presidents, Nobel laureates, and prominent scientists, diplomats, and educators. A respected media source for analyzing leadership in the context of news-breaking events and key trends, Battley has been featured in outlets worldwide including CNN, CNBC, Fox, Bloomberg, and National Public Radio, and in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Chief Executive, Business Week, United Press International, Harvard Management Update, Entrepreneur, Science, Leader to Leader, Investments, and Worth. She is the founder and CEO of Battley Performance Consulting, a leadership strategy and organization effectiveness consultancy.