Great Leaders Get Great Sleep

Donna White

Donna White

By Donna White, Principal Consultant and Owner of Legacy Consulting Services and Legacy Billing Solutions in Montgomery, Alabama.

For something that most of us spend one-third of our life doing, sleep is a seriously undervalued tool in a leader’s tool belt. As a leader, it can be tempting to deprive ourselves of sleep in order to have more time to get things done. Recent studies are showing that this may be a counter-intuitive approach to accomplishing more overall. A recent article from Medical News Today says that, “over $100 billion in lost productivity, medical expenses, sick leave, and property damage.”

As leaders, the only way to truly lead others is by first leading ourselves. One of the primary ways we can do that is through prioritizing self-care, and getting great sleep is an essential first step in taking care of ourselves. Below are a few ways to get better sleep:

Keep your caffeine intake limited.

If left unchecked, caffeine consumption can easily take a toll on your ability to get a good night’s rest. Caffeine has a half-life of 5-8 hours, which means that if you consume 100mg of caffeine at 12PM, 50mg of it is still present in your body from 5-8PM. This can make getting to sleep on time much more difficult than it would be otherwise.

Some people will need to limit your intake to a certain amount and certain time everyday based on their sensitivity. Some people have success in using caffeine only on certain days of the week. It may take some trial and error for you to find out how your body best responds to changing up your intake.

Get on a regular schedule.

The average human moves through multiple stages of sleep in the middle of the night, repeating in 90-minute cycles. According to Shawn Stevenson in his Book Sleep Smarter, one of the keys to getting great sleep is taking advantage of these sleep cycles by timing when you should fall asleep around these sleep cycles. Many people will set their alarm to wake them up some time in the middle of one of these 90-minute cycles which can lead to the oh-so-familiar groggy feeling in the morning. Ideally, waking up at in between the end of one of those cycles and the beginning of another will provide the most restful feeling when waking up.

Shawn recommends setting your alarm clock to line up with these sleep cycles. If you have to wake up at 5:00AM, try going to sleep at 9:15PM so that you can be asleep at 9:30PM for a total of 7.5 hours of sleep (a total of five 90-minute sleep cycles). An easy way to calculate when you should wake go to bed or wake up can be found at

Exercise regularly

Having a regular exercise schedule is not only beneficial to your overall health, but to your sleep life as well. According to a study from Bellarmine University and Oregon State University, “regular physical activity may serve as a non-pharmaceutical alternative to improve sleep,” for people who work out at least 150 minutes a week. The National Sleep Foundation indicates that any type of exercise movement is better than none. They suggest anything from cardio to strength training to yoga to aid in improving the quality of sleep. The bottom line is clear: if we want better sleep, we need to get our body moving during our waking hours.

There is no better time than now to invest in yourself and your sleep. What do you need to start doing today to help improve your sleep life?

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