Why we sleep?
According to Matthew Walker, sleep researcher and author of Why We Sleep, sleep is the single most effective thing we can do to reset our brain and body health each day.
Within the brain, sleep enriches a diversity of functions, including our ability to:
- Make logical decisions and choices
- Recalibrate our emotional brain circuits, allowing us to navigate next-day social and psychological challenges with cool-headed composure
- Mollify painful memories mainly through dreams
- Meld past and present knowledge, inspiring creativity.
In the body, sleep:
- Restocks the armory of our immune system
- Prevents infection
- Wards off all manner of sickness
- Reforms the body’s metabolic state by fine-tuning the balance of insulin and circulating glucose
- Regulates our appetite
- Helps control body weight through healthy food selection rather than rash impulsivity
- Maintains a flourishing microbiome within your gut from which we know so much of our nutritional health begins
- Is intimately tied to the fitness of our
- cardiovascular system,
- lowering blood pressure
- while keeping our hearts in fine condition
Wow! That is a lot of stuff. To simplify, I recommend that you ignore all that and focus on one thing.
Get about 8 hours of sleep tonight.
If that works, go for two nights in a row, then three……. It is like taking a magic pill (especially the last two hours which have shown to have the greatest impact)!
Two key insights for the workplace
- According to the Walker’s book, circadian rhythms have become hardwired – our ancestors limited risk in creating a pattern of survival vulnerability to four hours versus eight thus increasing the chances of the tribe’s longevity. (They did a great job or you would not be here!) That is, there was only a four-hour window when the entire tribe was asleep thus limiting risk from predators and rival tribes. The patterns and percentages found are as follows:
- Morning larks – 40% – ~9pm -> ~6am
- Night Owls – 30% – ~12AM – ~9am
- Remaining 30% fall somewhere in between
Which one are you?
- Humans have biphasic sleep patterns. That is, for most people, the optimal sleep pattern includes an overnight of 7-9 hours and a 30-60 minute afternoon nap.
Try one of these at work
What we find in most workplaces is that the “morning larks” are celebrated. All others are encouraged to be more like the most “successful” people who get up early. This could be why we have very early meetings where possibly up to 60% of the team are not yet “awake”. As a leader, here are some suggestions of what you can do to optimize the team health – physically and mentally – as well as increase the chance of improved insight, cooperation, mood, learning/growth, and business velocity.
- Flexible start hours – except where specific hours are required for the role, allow team members to set their own work hours. With one exception, from ~11am-3pm – all team members are expected to be “at work”.
- Optimal team meetings similar to above – ~11am – ~3pm. Strive to have no other key meetings scheduled outside of this window.
- Afternoon walk, meditation, nap pods or alternative recharging option. This happens for most people between 2 and 4pm.
- Offer sleep credits based on continuity and amount toward additional PTO. Leveraging technology such as FitBit or others, you can track and reward the amount and the consistency of your team’s sleep.
According to the data the author has amassed over twenty years of sleep research, the return on the sleep investment in terms of productivity, creativity, work enthusiasm, energy, efficiency—not to mention happiness, leading to people wanting to work at your institution, and stay—is undeniable yet largely unknown or ignored.
James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, shares that sleep is a meta-habit – a habit of energy. Building good sleep habits puts you in a better position to perform. If you’re not well rested, you are hindering yourself in your performance each day. The insidious part is because it is often so gradual you do not notice the shift yourself – it becomes the new normal.
Understanding and leveraging the power of sleep to enhance your workplace is a critical and simple way to differentiate your business.
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