Sleep and Effectiveness

It may sound elemental, but experience indicates it is anything but that - people are running too lean on rest, and it's crippling their capacity to succeed and thrive at work and at home!


“Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” Vince Lombardi

The Jury is in: We’re not getting enough sleep

The sleep deprived function less effectively than the well-rested. It’s been estimated that people get about 2 hours less of sleep in the 21st century than they did in the 19th century. And about 30% of the population gets inadequate sleep (≤ 6 hours). For some, it’s a badge of honor to work longer hours and run lean on sleep. Of course, this is delusional and it soon catches up with them. The current state of the workplace is not sustainable.

Not only do many of us work longer hours than we should, we are tethered to our smart phones. And what we know from research is that smart phone use is negatively associated with duration and quality of sleep. Even 2 hours less of sleep is enough to boost of stress levels and impair performance. On-the-job sleepiness and fatigue are negatively associated with executive skills, interpersonal behaviors, and health.

Here’s a sample of recent research findings[1] linking poor sleep[2] to adverse effects on performance and health:

Recent research findings relating poor sleep to Performance and Well-Being.

Recent research findings relating poor sleep to Performance and Well-Being.

What Can We Do?

Of course, the first order of business is to recognize you are not Super Man or Woman. But beyond that it’s important to gain perspective. If you’ve been at the mercy of a “whatever it takes” work ethic for long, you have lost control, and you need to regain it. The way you do that is by engaging with a helpful other, examining in dialogue what is driving your current behavior – some of it is probably rather irrational.

Action (versus activity) is purposive, rationally considered, freely chosen. Running without adequate sleep does enhance action; it's usually the result of surrendering our freedom and rationality to unconscious drives. These drives are not reasonable. They arise from fears and are based on faulty assumptions and beliefs. In any case, they are patently unsustainable. So, you can either crash and burn, or take a step back.

For tips on how to develop a healthy sleep regimen, I would refer you to the National Sleep Foundation. But that's the technical aspect of this problem. The harder work will be gaining insight into the unconscious drives and habits that govern your life, induce fears, and cause you to lose rational control over your life, and then changing these habits. It will all feel daunting if not impossible until you start making the change. You can do it!


[1] K. Nowak, Sleep, Emotional Intelligence, and Interpersonal Effectiveness: Natural Bedfellows, Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 2017, Vol. 69, No. 2, 66–79.

[2] National Health Interview Survey where nearly 30% of adults reported getting inadequate sleep, defined as ≤ 6 hours of sleep per day: Schoenborn & Adams, Health behaviors of adults: United States, 2005–2007. Vital and Health Statistics. Series, 10, Data from the National Health Survey, 2010, 1–132.