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Skimping On Sleep Is Popular For Executives; But Is It A Healthy Habit?

Written by Terri Wallin

Baggy blood shot eyes and gut-punched circadian rhythms are a badge of honor for some high-achieving executives. Thankfully coffee and speed drinks stiff-arm their devolution into a zombie. Unfortunately many world executives get little sleep, less than six hours a night and their bodies are paying the price.

Sleep Deprivation 123rf.com 37258533_ml (2)In October 2006, Harvard Business Review writer Bronwyn Fryer, wrote an article entitled “Sleep Deficit: The Performance Killer” that chronicles the devastating effects of sleep deprivation on numerous test subjects. Dr. Charles A. Czeisler, a Baldino Professor of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School states that “…24 hours without sleep or a week of sleeping four or five hours a night induces an impairment equivalent to a blood alcohol level of .1%.” The Center for Disease Control states that a 0.1% blood alcohol level causes “clear deterioration of reaction time and control, slurred speech, poor coordination, and slowed thinking”. Police can arrest drivers with blood alcohol content (BAC) of .05 to .08. If police were able to measure sleep deprivation there would likely be far fewer drivers on the roads.

Workaholics, like alcoholics, pay the inevitable price for debasing their health.  Life is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s not how many hours you put in, but what you put into the hours that make a difference. These two maxims are trite but true. Driven sleep-eschewing leaders often pass this affliction on to their employees creating a manic culture of evolving burnout. To have the energy to stay ahead of your competitors and have a strong team, executives need to live by example, healthfully.

Here are 3 warning signs to look for that might indicate you need a bit more shut-eye:

  1. Do you have trouble getting to sleep?
  2. Do you fall asleep during the day or feel incredibly sleepy?
  3. Do you drink caffeinated beverages to give you a little pep?

If you answer yes to the above, you may wish to re-evaluate your values and ask yourself if getting little to no sleep is worth it.

There are good role models who are highly successful and still manage to get sleep. In fact, it seems the tide toward sleep is turning. The recent Wall Street Journal article “Sleep is The New Status Symbol for Successful Entrepreneurs”, cites the example of Jeff Bezos and others who get 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Rested executives state they function better.

Here are 4 great reasons to re-evaluate your sleep habits:

  1. Sleep deprivation is a reality if you get less than 6 hours of sleep – accidents happen and your body will actually shut off at some point.
  2. You model healthy balance to your employees
  3. You set healthy standards for your family and for work
  4. You stand a chance to have work-life balance!

Be honest to yourself about your sleep habits and get validation from a colleague or family member. Get the needed rest your body is seeking and watch your performance soar!

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