Want to be a better leader tomorrow? Get some sleep tonight

As I type this, I am tired. 

The last few weeks have been busy, and I sacrifice sleep when my calendar gets busy. 

I would like to brag that I work late every night, but I have also stayed up late watching basketball, unwinding after long days and simply not going to bed. 

I am not alone.

A recent study states, “The average person gets less than seven hours of sleep every night.” This is down more than an hour from 1942.

A lack of sleep has wide-reaching ramifications, like health problems, accidents and cognitive impairment. 

It also makes you a worse leader. 

You are less focused, creative, patient, compassionate and productive when tired.

You are more self-centered, irritated, distracted and easily discouraged when exhausted.

So, let’s make this simple and practical: Get some sleep by doing a few simple things. 

  • Make getting a good night’s sleep a priority.

    You are not going to drift into better sleep. You have to pre-decide to get the sleep you need. Pick a time now when you will cease productive activity tonight. Stop doing laundry, paying the bills, checking your e-mail, etc.
  • Don’t use handheld electronic devices in the hour before you go to bed.

    I could list several reasons why this is a good idea, but let me ask you a simple question: ” Does using your hand-held device move you towards a peaceful, restful state?”

    I didn’t think so.


  • Create the right environment for better sleep.

    Cooler conditions make it easier to sleep. White noise drowns out sleep-disturbing sounds. Follow the same routine before you go to sleep.

    (Our dog knows all the bedtime cues. When she senses the start of the nighttime routine, she runs to her bed for the night. If it works for my dog, it will work for me.)

Sleep is vital for a thriving leader, but don’t take my word for it.

Douglas Wick summarizes it well with this observation: 

You may recall K. Anders Ericsson’s study on violinists, popularized by Malcolm Gladwell as “the 10,000-Hour Rule.” In it, Anders found that the best violinists spent more time practicing than the merely good students. What was the second most important factor differentiating the best violinist from the good violinist? 

The second most important factor differentiating the best violinists from the good violinists is actually sleep. The best violinists slept an average of 8.6 hours in every twenty-four-hour period: about an hour longer than the average American.

And Leadercast contributor Michael Hyatt put it this way:

Bottom line: Instead of thinking of sleep as self-indulgence, we need to think of it as self-improvement.

If we want to get ahead, we need to go to bed.


Brian Rutherford

Brian Rutherford is the Chief Operating Officer for Leadercast. Brian has been telling stories professionally for twenty-five years. Stories that inspire people to see themselves and the world differently. Stories that challenge people to take meaningful action in the world.

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