Sleep Your Way to Better Leadership

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are and to lead others.” adapted from E. E. Cummings

What is leadership?

When you think of leadership, you might think about the workplace. What else comes to mind? Do you think about what YOU are aspiring to lead, to make a difference with what you do for others or are you struggling to find balance and harmony in your own life? What does leadership mean to you?There are so many definitions, but many misunderstand what it really
requires. Selfcare, empathy and ‘soft skills’ are not always valued as leadership skills. This is where sleep comes in, my favourite ‘secret’ to selfcare. Sleep has the capacity to enhance the effectiveness of each leader and how these leaders can successfully influence others at a deeper level.

“Calm mind brings inner strength and self-confidence, so that’s very important for good health.”          Dalai Lama

How can sleep help you be a better leader?

There are some unique perspectives created from the business concept of, ‘productivity’. Even neuroscience is part of the conversation. After all, most believe that our brains have a lot to do with our capacity to learn, to be a good leader, perhaps be more productive, smarter, faster, you get the picture. Lack of sleep, stress, lack of enough exercise and poor nutrition all contribute to a reduced level of cognitive function, poor decision making and ability to process emotions and even realize that you even have a problem!

 “Successful leadership is leading with the heart, not just the head. They possess qualities like empathy, compassion and courage.”  Bill George

Sleeping for the job

Leadership, wellbeing and sleep are written and talked about more often recently in the same breath from McKinsey & Company’s report on The Organizational Cost of Insufficient Sleep to Harvard Business Review’s article on Sleep Well, Lead Well to Fortune’s article on a Rand Corporation research study that states that $411 billion USD is lost each year on lost productivity. That was published in 2016!  One of my favourite words that came out of the past few years was presenteeism. It reminds me of an expression (in local ‘Hawaiian’ pidgin): ‘the light stay on but nobody home, bruddah’. You’re at work but you’re only functioning at 60%!

“Life is short, take good care of yourself first, then lead and the change the world.” Mag Secretario

You first

All of the above is saying is take care of yourself first before can take care of others, before you can be a good leader, manager, employee, entrepreneur, mother, father or even a health coach. Unfortunately, not many companies are enlightened with corporate wellness or workplace wellbeing programs that go beyond the tick box exercise!

Here’s what you can do NOW that can open more possibilities and your own potential.

Use your head!

Your brain depends on quality sleep. Most people need 7-9 hrs of sleep each night, work that out for yourself and create 30-60 minute rituals that prepare you for a ‘soft landing and soft takeoff’. This will reset your brain, help you feel calmer and refreshed. Neuroscience has proven that it can increase your memory, increase your ability to learn and retain more and sharpen your focus. Be open minded and you can learn how to ‘rewire’ brain patterns by learning new habits!

Examples of pre-sleep rituals

  • Prepare for tomorrow by journaling, planning ahead for the next day BEFORE you begin your ritual so that these things don’t wake you up in the middle of the night or disrupt your last hour before bed. Be sure that everything is secure in your home, your family and your work. Give the
  • next hour for yourself only!
  • Dim all indoor lighting where possible. The effect of artificial light, especially light from the blue spectrum such as our devices, has been proven to delay production of melatonin in the brain. Melatonin is our body’s natural mechanism to start preparing for sleep.
  • Read, relax and reflect on the day’s events. Let go of the day, hot baths or a hot shower helps and for some, having a cup of chamomile tea helps. Try not snacking close to bedtime. Allow a minimum of 12 hours between dinner and breakfast. Your digestive system needs a rest as well!
  • Practice meditation, or just be still. Try not to watch stimulating films before bed. Soothing music or sounds can also help closer to bedtime. Try Insight Timer for many free guided meditations.
  • The above practices are simple but not always easy. It’s easier with a partner so that you can ‘synchronize’ your biological clocks. Practice means doing this for 3-4 weeks and you can make this ritual a real habit without thinking twice about it!

Get help!

Asking for help is misunderstood and not the sign of strength it actually is. Coaching & mentoring is the support system that provides a safe environment, without judgement yet challenges you by asking powerful questions that give you fresh perspectives and solutions, a unique advantage. You don’t know what you don’t know especially if you don’t ask!

Own it!

Take 100% responsibility for your own wellbeing physically, mentally, emotionally and financially. Being well with the emphasis on BEING not just doing! Being well must be learned and practiced every day so you can serve others at the highest level. Join me on the journey to lead this revolution! Download our latest free guide to get you started: 

Who are you becoming as a leader, as a person? I’m open to talking!

100 Answers to the Question: What Is Leadership?
The Organizational Cost of Insufficient Sleep:
Sleep Well, Lead Well
Lack of Sleep Costs US about $411 Billion in Lost Productivity, Study Finds
Why sleep matters – the economic costs of insufficient sleep
Presenteeism: At Work—But Out of It
Insight Timer

3 thoughts on “Sleep Your Way to Better Leadership”

  1. Hey there Mat,

    Thanks for a really great, very infromative post on the benefits of sleep on leadership. Because sleep is when new neurons and connections are created and obsolete ones are destroyed, sleep is really very important regarding the well bein of our brains and our life in general.

    I usually meditate and drink a glass of milk before going to bed. And read on my Kindle while in bed. Would you suggest I should change some of them, or add something more?




  2. Getting enough and good quality sleep does make a huge difference in how you are able to perform in your job or even how you perform as a leader. There is nothing worse than trying to function if you haven’t had enough sleep.

    You have some wonderful pre-sleep tips to help to fall asleep. I must say I don’t have a problem falling asleep, but rather staying asleep. Do you have any tips for if you wake up at 2 am and can’t go back to sleep?

  3. I sleep +- 7 hours per night. Early to bed (09:00) and up at 05:00. I’m most nights very restless and after reading your article I think I know what I’m doing wrong. I’m not easing into my night, which means I’m not switching off. I work until I’m tired and then go to bed.

    You mention there should be a 12-hour gap between breakfast and dinner. I try to eat healthily and have 3 meals a day, which makes this impossible. I also have family members who are diabetic and they should eat between 4 and 6 small meals a day.

    My last meal is between 5 and 6. In your opinion do you think this is early enough before bedtime?

    Thanks for sharing very helpful tips. I’m definitely changing my nightly routine.


Leave a comment