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The importance of sleep

The importance of sleep

We often spend our time looking for new ways to help us be more productive at work. There are a myriad of elements to look at including the physical elements of exercise and diet, how we set goals, plan and prioritise, and how we manage others, to name a few.

In the rush to find the silver bullet, we often forget about one of the most important activities in our lives - sleep.

You may ask "How does sleep affect my performance as a leader on a daily basis?"

Sleep is essential to our overall wellbeing and ability to function effectively over a sustained period of time. Tony Schwartz in his book "The Way we are working isn't working" dedicates the fifth chapter to sleep. The title says it all - "Sleep or Die".

If we don't get enough sleep the risks are:

  • extreme fatigue
  • reduced ability to think clearly
  • emotional instability
  • lower productivity
  • greater susceptibility to illness
  • more likely to gain weight
  • less able to respond creatively to problems and opportunities
  • less likely to generate new ideas
    Schwartz believes that "No single behaviour . . . more fundamentally influences our effectiveness in waking life than sleep"

Interested and want to know more?

Russell Foster, a circadian neuroscientist, tells us more about sleep and the influence it has on our lives.

Arianna Huffington sets out her big idea in an entertaining 4 minute case to a group of women why sleep is the secret to more success.

How much sleep do we need? Various bodies recommend 7-8 hours of unbroken sleep.

The correct amount of sleep lifts your resilience so that you feel better about yourself, think more clearly, deal with challenges and be healthier. So what to do?

The first thing is to be aware of how much sleep you are getting. If you feel you need to sleep more, here are some things you could try:

  • go to bed earlier or get up later
  • 30 minutes before you want to sleep switch off TV  - read a dull book (watch out for LED screens they stimulate the brain!)
  • alcohol is a stimulant - if you like a glass of wine with dinner - have it early. Nightcaps not recommended
  • go to bed and get up at the same time 7 days a week (one lie in disrupts your sleep patterns)
  • exercise regularly

Sleep well!

Mind your body language

Verbal communication, the words we use, makes up 35% of how we communicate. Much more significant is our tone; facial expressions, movement, appearance, eye contact and posture, this non-verbal component of communication is 65%. But what influence does our body language have on our own thinking and behaviour?

Social psychologist Amy Cuddy uses this TED talk to present her research to give us more insight to this fascinating subject and tells her own very personal story that led her to take up the research.

Within the talk we learn that:

  1. We make judgements about other people based on their body language
  2. Many of the postures we have are naturally programmed (people blind from birth display them)
  3. Whilst we influence others with our non-verbals - we also influence ourselves and govern how we think and feel about ourselves
  4. By being aware of our body language we can change our minds

This talk really caught my attention as a big part of coaching is understanding how our thinking influences our behaviour and in turn our relationships and culture we work in. Cuddy adds another level of awareness to that whole process and the importance of our non-verbal communication to ourselves as well as others.

Have a think about how you are holding yourself and how it then influences your thinking about yourself in that situation. Typical situations are:

  • In meetings with your team or with your boss
  • In a conflict situation
  • Making presentations
  • Interviews
  • When asking for something
  • Talking on the phone

I hope you find the time to look at this. If this makes you aware of something you are doing experiment with a change of posture and see what difference it makes.

Enjoy!

P.S. for those interested in the brain and how it works I recommend Jill Bolte Taylors stroke of insight.

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