RVB Associates Blog

Leaders: How Did You Sleep Last Night?

[fa icon="calendar"] Mar 6, 2017 10:25:33 AM / by Dr. Rob Bogosian

Dr. Rob Bogosian

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Did you get a good night sleep last night? If you answer “yes” you may be sleep deprived. If you answered “no” you may be sleep deprived. Actually, not everyone is sleep deprived but those who are may not realize it and answer, “yes” to this question. But there are some clear signs of sleep deprivation that adversely impact the quality of your decision-making, innovation, risk tolerance and interpersonal connections at work.

 The Research

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According to the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 30% - 48% of the general population report having insomnia related conditions and 13% report having chronic insomnia. According to a study by the National Sleep Foundation[1], American Workers reported sleeping, “on average, 6.7 hours on workdays and 7.4 hours on non-workdays, and described a total sleep need of between 7 and 8 hours per night to be at their best during the next day. Forty nine percent (49%) reported that they experienced non-refreshing sleep a few nights per week or more, with nearly as many (42%) reporting waking up frequently at night a few nights per week or more, and 26% reported difficulty falling asleep a few nights per week or more. Approximately 18% reported extreme sleepiness or falling asleep at work in the past month” (p. 489). Those who reported sleeping less than 6 hours per night on workdays, attribute sleep loss to a demanding work schedule (p. 490).

Research shows that we are sleeping 15 minutes less than we were 3 decades ago[2]. A large-scale study showed that 29.9% of Americans get less than 6 hours per day; for those in management and enterprises, 40.5% get less than 6 hours[3]. All this research can spell trouble for managers at work.

Research shows that “four consecutive nights of 5 hours of sleep per night leads to decrements in a cognitive task equivalent to a blood alcohol content of 0.6%”[4]

(p. 236). A 40-minute sleep loss was associated with a 5.6% spike in work injuries[5].


The Work Impact

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Most managers agree that they spend a large part of their time in meetings interacting with others, solving problems, innovating and mitigating risk. We use the prefrontal cortex of our brain to perform these functions. Generally, this part of our brain needs glucose, which it uses up during the day and is restored during the sleep process. If you are sleep deprived you are likely to experience a reduced ability to concentrate, keep your emotions in check, get along well with others. Research shows that those who reported sleeping less than 6 hours per night on workdays avoided co-worker social interactions more often. They were more likely to report experiencing mood-related problems at work, including impatience (p. 490)[6]. Sleep deprivation can affect risk management outcomes. Research shows that sleep deprivation “increases expectations of gain in risky decisions and makes people less sensitive to loss”[7] (p. 238).

So, sleep deprivation is a phenomenon that is quite real and should be examined more closely by every organization. Companies are spending inordinate amounts of money on risk management programs, team building, problem-solving activities which are probably worthwhile but maybe all we need is a good night sleep.

[1] Swanson, L. M. et al. (2011) Journal of Sleep Research, (20), 487-494

[2] Kronholm et al., (2008) Journal of Sleep Research, 17, 54–62.

[3] Luckhaupt, Tak, & Calvert, (2010) Sleep, 33, 149–159.

[4] Elmenhorst et al. (2009) Sleep Medicine, 10, 189–197.

[5] Barnes and Wagner (2009) Personnel Psychology.

[6] Swanson, L. M. et al. Journal of Sleep Research, 487-494).

[7] Venkatraman, Chuah, Huettel, and Chee (2007) Organizational Psychology Review, 234–257.


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Topics: Management skills, Leadership

Dr. Rob Bogosian

Written by Dr. Rob Bogosian

Dr. Rob Bogosian is founder and principal consultant at RVB Associates, Inc. also featured in Business Insider, CNN Money, Fortune Magazine, CEO Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine and co-author of Breaking Corporate Silence.