Scientists continue to reveal that sleep is vital for memory, creativity, learning, focus, decision making, and stress reduction.
Yet sleep remains chronically undervalued in western society, especially in the professional space. The National Sleep Foundation reports that “about one in three American adults don’t get sufficient sleep on a regular basis.”
Perhaps this is due to a cultural stigma around sleep; a false paradigm that tells us sleep is indicative of laziness.
When we think and/or talk about success, our culture tends to paint a picture of “hard work” that usually implies long hours fueled by caffeine. This visual is usually followed by one of sleepless nights spent “burning the midnight oil.”
Recently Rebel + Connect Co-Founder and a Host on Rebel + Connect Radio Rachel McGehee interviewed Andrew McDonald of Possess Your Success. Andrew, a remote worker himself, is a success coach who works specifically with millennial entrepreneurs who want to be the leaders of their own lives.
While the interview covered many topics, the first and foremost topic was the importance of rest.
Let’s take another look at the science behind sleep and it’s link to effective remote leadership and ultimately professional success…
Maybe we can kick this cultural myth once and for all!
Sleep Improves Your Memory
To be a successful remote leader you need to have a good memory. You need to track project deadlines, remember the names and unique details of your important clients, be mindful of team members’ strengths and weaknesses, adhere to business best practices, and consistently represent your brand.
Researchers at Harvard explain that sleep has an impact on both declarative and procedural memory.
Declarative memory is knowledge of facts. For example, unique client details and team members’ strengths and weaknesses are facts about the people you do business with that can make or break your team’s performance and your client satisfaction!
Procedural memory is knowledge of “how” to do something. For example, while your declarative memory recalls when a project is due, your procedural memory recalls business best practices, operational proficiencies, and company wide protocols that are required for meeting that deadline!
Sleep Increases Creativity
Creativity isn’t just for artists. The creative mind is also responsible for insight, problem solving, and innovation. Every remote leader regardless of industry would be wise to cultivate creativity!
During sleep your brain appears to reorganize and restructure information. Scientists believe that this reorganization of information contributes to our ability to think creativity during waking life.
Joanne Cantor Ph.D, a contributor at Psychology Today, shares:
“... I've awakened with a new perspective on a problem that was bugging me the day before… Researchers looking inside the brain while people solve insight problems have noted that the areas of the brain that become active first are focused in a small area. But after a period of tight focus on the problem and just before the aha! moment occurs, they observe a state of brain relaxation, which loosens the tight focus and makes the brain more likely to make new and distant connections between previously unrelated areas. Relaxing the brain's focus then, seems to be essential for insight.”
Sleep Improves Learning
It’s not just the n00bs that are learning on the job. Remote leaders must commit to lifelong learning or risk becoming out of touch and irrelevant. Experts know that there is always more to learn.
Dr. Rapoport explains, “... severe and reoccurring sleep deprivation… clearly impairs learning."
Learning requires the brain to receive new information (acquisition), effectively store information in the long-term memory (consolidation), and retrieve previously stored information (recall).
Harvard Researchers explain:
“When we are sleep deprived, our focus, attention, and vigilance drift, making it more difficult to receive information. Without adequate sleep and rest, over-worked neurons can no longer function to coordinate information properly, and we lose our ability to access previously learned information.”
Sleep Increases Focus
One of the primary roles of a remote leader is to keep their team focused on priorities, so that important goals are achieved. Additionally, remote leaders need to maintain focus regarding the overall vision and mission of the business.
The National Sleep Foundation reports that insufficient sleep makes it harder for your brain to focus and pay attention. Additionally, lack of sleep slows your reaction time.
Sleep Improves Decision Making
Remote leaders are decision makers. They are charged with the responsibility of deciding who to hire, who to fire, what clients and projects to take on, what new ideas to try, what to invest company resources in, etc.
Research shows that sleep deprivation has a negative impact on the way that our brains interpret life events. When we are chronically exhausted we can no longer accurately assess a situation, plan accordingly, and choose the correct behavior. In other words, judgment becomes impaired.
Sleep Reduces Stress
There is no doubt that being a remote leader is stressful. It can feel like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders. Everyone is looking to you, wondering “what next”?
Neuroscientists have discovered two types of stress, distress and eustress. Distress is the result of perceiving a stimuli as dangerous or life threatening and causes a fight, flight, freeze, or faint reaction. Eustress is the result of perceiving stimuli as a workable challenge and results in a well thought out response.
When you are sleep deprived you are more likely to react to stimuli, which also increases the likelihood of you making poor choices, losing sleep ruminating over what you could have done differently, and waking less than rested.
To the contrary, when you are well rested you are more likely to respond to stimuli, which also increases the likelihood of you making a well thought out choice, going to bed feeling good, and waking up well rested!
As Christopher M. Barnes of Huffington Post explains sleep deprivation is a vicious cycle that will drag you down into a pit of despair, while getting a good night sleep is a nurturing cycle that will help you rise up to meet all life’s challenges!
Rebel + Connect creates custom retreats for remote teams. A Colorado based company owned and operated by Charlie Birch, Rachel McGehee, and Summer Weirich, we operate remotely and service clients from all over the globe. Join us as we create cultures of meaning and celebrate human connections in a digital world!
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