The image above could have been based on a sketch of me, since I’ve been known to occasionally fall asleep in the chair I sit in while using my home computer.
I’ve known for a long time the value of getting adequate sleep, and unlike many people who take pride in how little sleep they get, I take pride in doing the best I can to get a good night’s rest, although it doesn’t always happen. I don’t keep track of my sleep habits, and I can’t offer any specific examples of how I was more creative or productive or made better decisions as a direct result of getting adequate sleep, but it just always seemed to to make sense that you perform better when you aren’t tired.
However, I just finished reading a great article in the McKinsey Quarterly, “The organizational cost of insufficient sleep” that does provide some evidence regarding the value of adequate sleep, and I’d like to share some of the highlights of that article.
The authors note that research has shown that sleep-deprived brains lose the ability to make accurate judgments, and as a result of our increasingly hyperconnected world, sleep management is an important organizational topic that requires specific and urgent attention.
The results of a McKinsey survey of 196 business leaders found that companies should do more to help teach leaders the importance of sleep. Sleep deficiencies can impair the performance of corporate executives, notably by undermining important forms of leadership behavior, and can thereby hurt financial performance.
Although basic visual and motor skills deteriorate when people are deprived of sleep, they do not do so nearly to the same extent as higher-order mental skills. Scientists have found that sleep deprivation impairs this ability to focus attention selectively. Research shows that after roughly 17 to 19 hours of wakefulness, individual performance on a range of tasks is equivalent to that of a person with a blood-alcohol level of 0.05 percent. After roughly 20 hours of wakefulness, this same person’s performance equals that of someone with a blood-alcohol level of 0.1 percent.
Sleep is beneficial for a host of cognitive functions—insight, pattern recognition, and the ability to come up with innovative and creative ideas—that help us solve problems effectively. Likewise, an afternoon nap has been found to aid creative problem solving. Other research has established that creative thinking is especially likely to take place during dream sleep, enhancing the integration of unassociated information and promoting creative solutions.
Recent studies have also shown that people who have not had enough sleep are less likely to fully trust someone else.
Given that a recent study found that 96 percent of executives reported some degree of burnout, with one-third describing their condition as extreme, it is time for companies to focus on this issue.
The authors suggest that companies take a more proactive approach to sleep management by offering training programs that teach employees effective sleep strategies. In addition, choosing appropriate company policies in the following areas can help promote better sleep habits:
- team working
- work-time limits
- mandatory work-free vacations
- predictable time-off
- napping rooms or pods
- smart technology
College students are just as guilty of not paying attention to their sleep habits, and as this article points out, the consequences could be dramatic, but I’m proud to admit that I’ve done my part.
I have all of my classes videotaped so that students can watch the class at their leisure. Watching those videos provides the two benefits noted in the Irish proverb noted as the title of this post:
a good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.
If any of you are looking for such a cure, just let me know and I’ll try to make those videos available…