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  • Writer's pictureDr. Lisa Gonzales

Go to Sleep, Will Ya?

Report after report shows how our children need more sleep, how adequate sleep is needed to be successful in school. High schools are changing start times to coincide with the latest research sleep trends of their students.

So why are adults any different? WE ARE NOT!

And now more research is coming out on the link between effective leadership and sleep. Uh I have your attention!

Leadership skills rely on a well-functioning brain. And that brain functions better when the frontal part of the neocortex (aka the prefrontal cortex) is able to process most effectively. The prefrontal commands the executive functioning skills such as problem solving, organizing, planning, reasoning, executing plans.....pretty much everything we as leaders rely on daily. And while other parts of the brain can function while being sleep deprived, the profrontal cannot. Visual and motor skills go downhill first, but the higher-order mental skills are those most impacted.

Now, I could bore you with all of the data and research behind this, but you could google it just as easily because what you really want to know is....what do I do about it?

Let's face it. As leaders, we get stressed out. We wake up at the ungodly hour of 2 am and our brains go into overdrive, destroying our sleep and making for a really rough next day.

Don't watch tv in bed. The bright lights impact your ability to sleep and if, by chance, you forget to set the snooze for the tv, when you wake up to turn it off,'re really awake.

Put your phone in the other room, or at least out of reach. I'm serious! Do it. Because if you're anything like most leaders I know, including me, you pick it up when you wake up and the lights and mental stimulation from email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the like are guaranteed to keep you up.

Count backward from 200 to 1. You have to try this. Count 200 in your head, take a deep breath, then count 199, and another deep breath, and so on. It works. It really works. Focusing on the numbers shuts down the voices in your head (well, most of them).

Melatonin and more. Many leaders I know swear by melatonin and other herbal sleep aides that can be taken on a daily basis with no side effects or ongoing reliance. Health food stores like Trader Joe's (love their cheweable ones) and Whole Foods have an assortment that work well.

Talk to your doctor. It might be time for a prescriptive sleeping pill on nights when you really need a solid seven or eight hours of sleep.

Not only will sleeping better make you a more focused, responsive, better thinking leader, it might also have positive impacts on your health.

Time to focus on you.

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