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Silent Career Killer: Sleep

The great equalizer. Sleep is one of the few, common needs of everyone.  We are all being teased by a society that now runs 24/7.  How we respond, will be a differentiator.

A while ago, I was in a rather deep discussion with a long time friend of mine about work hours and sleep.  Looking back, I’m sure the conversation was much more complaining about work/life balance, as the work hours exceeded sleep hours by almost a 2:1 ratio.   However, he was fast to point out that he couldn’t keep up the pace, because he felt he “lost his presence” when he functioned on too little sleep.  It made me wonder about the impacts of too little sleep.


No surprise, there are mountains of studies on the effects of sleep loss.  Most studies directly link sleep loss to the increase in obesity, due to hormone disruption.  Similar associations to other illnesses like increased risk for colon cancer, breast cancer, heart disease and diabetes.  Further studies show that those who drive while tired display similar reaction times as those significantly impaired by alcohol. 

I had to admit, my friend must be right.  If sleep deprivation is bad for our health and can mimic reaction times of a drunk driver, what is it doing to our brain?  According to two different 2007 studies, one by the Better Sleep Council and one by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, sleep deprivation will have the following results:
  • Decrease quality and accuracy of work
  • Inability to think and judge clearly
  • Reduced ability to make decisions, particularly ones that require both emotional and mental thought
  • Diminished memory of important details
This result costs US businesses close to $150 billion (yes that is a B), a year in absenteeism and lost productivity.  There is NO doubt we lose our presence.  To be a good leader, we have to act like one.  Apparently, the first step is getting enough sleep.

While everyone is different, it is recommended that we sleep between 7-9 hours per day.  The best gauge to ‘enough’ sleep is when you don’t need an alarm clock to wake up at the appropriate time.  Sweet Dreams!

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The author, Diahann Boock, is the founder of Women's Ally. For information about working with Diahann, check out our Programs.

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