Today I read an article in the WSJ about the effects of sleep-deprivation over time. Basically, the article made two points that really hit home: first, you can’t really catch up on lost sleep during the week by making up for it on the weekend. And, maybe most importantly,people that are sleep-deprived will adapt to feeling sleepy but still retain the physiological indicators of being sleep-deprived. So even if you don’t feel sleepy, you still might be performing like you are.
This insight takes on more importance in light of a poignant HBR article that I came across last summer. Basically, the authors lay out a slew of neurology and sociology data showing how lack of sleep or extended wakefulness is bad in several ways for leaders of all kinds and also how getting more/better sleep has several benefits. It’s pretty compelling stuff and something that every leader should be paying more attention too. And as someone who sacrifices sleep for productivity much more often that is optimal, it got me thinking about why we tend to do this so often.
One way to think about this is to reframe from “How does lack of sleep affect me?” to “What am I sacrificing when I sacrifice sleep?” Because when it comes down to it, I usually sacrifice sleep to get some work done now so that I can be more effective/productive later. But as the HBR article points out, the things affected by lack of sleep are “operating with a strong orientation to results, solving problems effectively, seeking out different perspectives, and supporting others.” Basically all things I (and most other people) need to do well to be good at my job. So if we burn the candle at both ends to be more productive but sacrifice effectiveness along the way, what are we really gaining? It’s worth thinking about and maybe making some strategic changes to how we approach sleep.