We have all heard the old adage “You snooze you lose” but as our society is suffering from a sleep deprivation epidemic a truer statement is “if you don’t snooze you lose”.
Looking at the image above and seeing the effects of sleep deprivation you would think this would have us running to our beds and committing to a solid 8 hours every night! However, our society is challenged as how to incorporate sleep, a necessary biological need just like food and water into our continuously plugged in 24/7 culture. Lack of sleep has become a cultural badge of honor that unfortunately people equate with power, stamina and even intellect. In reality, a lack of sleep contributes to a breakdown of cognitive function, impairs decision making and if we look at some of the worst societal disasters like Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, Chernobyl, The Challenger and 3 Mile Island there was a factor of human exhaustion that contributed to each of these events.
The CDC has a term called “drowsy driving” which is a dangerous combination of driving and sleepiness or fatigue. This leads to drivers paying less attention to the road and having a slower reaction time if needed to brake or steer the wheel suddenly as well affects the driver’s ability to make good decisions.
Other disturbing research provided by the CDC includes:
- An estimated 1 in 25 adult drivers (aged 18 years or older) report having fallen asleep while driving in the previous 30 days.
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drowsy driving was responsible for 72,000 crashes, 44,000 injuries, and 800 deaths in 2013. However, these numbers are underestimated and up to 6,000 fatal crashes each year may be caused by drowsy drivers.
Take charge of what needs charging
Many of my coaching clients find that they never have enough time, days are too packed and they are overwhelmed, anxious, stressed and exhausted. It’s a similar problem no matter what their professional level, industry or the configuration of their personal lives When we take a look at what is really going on it is quickly apparent that their sleep is often being sacrificed.
Typical responses when pointing out that sleep is a necessity like water and food is often a false bravado of “Oh, I manage fine on 5 hours a night”, “I hear the President only sleeps 4-5 hours a night”,”A triple Venti latte gets me through”or “I will sleep when I am dead.” Unfortunately, by not paying credence to the importance of sleep we make ourselves incredibly vulnerable and at a disadvantage to be as productive and competitive as we would like not to mention impacting our safety, mood and happiness.
Another aspect that contributes to our sleep deprived state is our reliance on technical devices and smart phones and the mindset that productivity runs 24/7. In addition, society’s response rather than focusing on how to get us to sleep more has been focused more on how to keep us awake. Whole new product lines have been created for energy drinks, caffeinated water, energy tablets and bars, etc. The coffee drinks at Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks have grown to colossal size and this only contributes to the problem making us think we don’t need sleep but just more â€œenergyâ€ products. Go into any grocery store and the shelves are stocked with “energy fortified water, cereal, gum, juice, chocolate, bars and even caffeinated potato chips to boost your snacking time!” 
Recharge without plugs!
We recharge our cell phones and various electronic devices with a manic focus but do we take the time to recharge ourselves? This is a short program outline that I often recommend a Digital Discipline plan to clients when they are complaining of exhaustion, stress and sleep deprivation.
- No devices in the bedroom
- Anything that needs to be charged or plugged in goes off at least one hour before sleep we aim for 9pm
- Devices stay off for the first 15 minutes after you awake (amazing what this can do for our personal relationships and it starts the day better to say good morning than to nod or grunt as you are scrolling through email) Just a reminder: you can check the weather by looking out the window
- You can still use social media and watch your favorite series on Netflix/Amazon prime but use discipline. Limit yourself to 45 minutes a day. This helps avoid the black hole that can happen like binge watching episodes of House of Cards and finding that it’s 1:30 in the morning
Once clients commit to this plan and start making different choices they are often amazed to find that getting more sleep is easier, which in turn results that they are less exhausted, feel more in control and productive as well as feeling an elevated state of happiness.
More Tips from a Sleep Guru
We can learn a lot from the Sleep Guru Activist, Arianna Huffington, author, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post. In her book, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder, she chronicles how she hit rock bottom and collapsed because of sleep deprivation and sustained a significant broken cheek injury and provides insights and interesting research about our sleep-deprived society and the negative impacts it is having on us as individuals, personally professionally and as a nation. She continues to be a sleep activist in her new book Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time. Both are great reads before bed or between naps this summer vacation!
Hopefully, sleep becomes the new vice and we return naturally to a healthier, happier and more productive society. If you are interested in exploring this topic in more detail for yourself or your organization, please contact Michèle Barnett Berg at email@example.com.
About MCG Partners
MCG Partners a woman-owned, Greater Boston-based consultancy specializing in executive coaching, leadership development, talent management, and organizational development solutions. We help businesses optimize success through the entire management life-cycle. MCG Partners is also a Predictive Index® (PI®) certified partner.
To learn more about MCG Partners’ services or The Predictive Index®, contact John Griffith at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit mcgpartners.com.