Sleep Health: The Unsung Hero in Women’s Leadership and Success

  • Published on:
    January 22, 2024
  • Reading time by:
    3 minutes

Ladies, we all know that sleep is critical for our health. The benefits of adequate rest don’t only stop at making your skin glow in the morning—it also brings about physiological improvements in our body’s ability to sustain and maintain itself through our day-to-day tasks.

From boosting concentration power to enhancing work productivity, getting enough sleep is crucial in empowering women in their performance, regardless of their background and role in society. 

Sleep is especially relevant for women who perform several high-order cognitive tasks in a normal workday. Among this demographic are our esteemed women leaders—the managers, the entrepreneurs, and all the other shot-callers. 

Sleep health is vital for these folks as their creativity, decision-making skills, and alertness must be in top shape if they want to impact their field. Let’s dive into five ways sleep impacts women in reaching success in their roles as leaders.

1. It increases the ability to make sound decisions

We’ve all experienced that fuzzy, unfocused feeling after multiple nights of sleep deprivation.

This lack of mental clarity can make it extra challenging for you to make competent business decisions. And for women leaders who handle large teams, this can have vast consequences for the prosperity of the organisation.

Sleeping at least 7 hours a night gives the body enough time in all the necessary phases of sleep, that is, NREM, REM, and deep sleep. 

In each of these stages (but most especially during REM sleep), the brain creates thousands of neural connections, effectively enhancing our ability to come up with creative solutions to various problems in our daily lives—or at the very least, making the job a whole lot easier.

When you don’t get enough sleep or face constant sleep interruptions, your brain’s ability to create these neural connections gets stunted. 

This is especially prevalent in people who face chronic sleep apnea, a sleep condition that causes people to wake up in the middle of the night due to airway obstruction during rest. This sleep disorder is measured by how many times you stop breathing per hour during the night (also known at AHI), which is explained in more detail here.

If you want to perform and lead effectively, getting enough uninterrupted sleep is a critical action to take. This way, you can remain mentally alert when the time comes to make big decisions for your business or organisation.

2. It strengthens your emotional quotient

Have you ever felt noticeably grumpier in the mornings? Do you get irritated at the instance of even the slightest inconvenience? A lack of sufficient sleep may have something to do with it.

Your limbic system—consisting of the hippocampus, amygdala, and prefrontal cortex—plays a crucial role in regulating and processing emotions. During REM sleep, this section of the brain plays an active role in consolidating, processing and storing emotional experiences. 

When you lack sleep, you won’t have enough time to recover from feeling the heightened emotions of past events, particularly bad ones. This can cause you to make emotional lapses of judgment, which can potentially be detrimental to your relationships and business as a whole.

Conversely, sleeping enough helps you form neural connections and gives your brain enough time to process and store emotional events. This not only helps keep you more rational when making decisions in your daily life, but it also decreases instances of outbursts, anger, and aggressiveness—all of which can be a result of sleep deprivation.

3. It increases your self-awareness

No one’s born a respected leader. To become one, a woman should not only hold intelligence and charisma, but they should also have a consistent set of values that they stick by, both in personal terms and business ethical terms.

Having a strong sense of personal values is integral to authentic leadership, and sleep plays a crucial role in enhancing this aspect of self-awareness.

Adequate sleep allows people to access a higher order of cognitive functioning and more consistent emotional regulation. These two components are essential for introspection and unbreakable commitment to one’s core values. 

When well-rested, leaders are more likely to align their actions with their set of values. This doesn’t only make oneself feel dignified by their unwavering belief system, but it also helps them earn the respect and trust of peers and subordinates. 

This, in turn, legitimises their position as a leader and helps everyone stay committed to organisational goals.

4. It makes you think faster

Leaders and business owners, given their position in the company, will inevitably come across tough decisions that they’ll have to solve on a daily basis. 

Many of these decisions are time-sensitive, and women leaders need to be on top of their wits to ensure that they’re finely balancing the outcomes and making the most equitable and profitable choice. 

For example, your subordinate may need you to pick between two suppliers: one that’s cheaper but takes longer to fulfil their obligations and the other being slightly more expensive but quicker. 

The outcome of each decision may seem minuscule at first, but in reality, it can cause a domino effect on your cash flow and overall profitability. Hence, you’d want to be in your best mental state before picking either the cheaper or expensive option—and that’s best achieved through a well-rested mind. 

When you’re fully rested, you’ll be able to more comprehensively weigh the pros and cons of each potential decision. You’ll also be able to come to conclusions more quickly, even for more complex tasks.

Conversely, when you’re sleepy, you’ll have a narrower view of the problem and may end up picking something that you’ll only end up regretting. This is because a lack of sleep can temporarily impair your decision-making skills and overall focus.

5. It reduces stress

Ladies, we all know how stressful it can be to run a company or lead a team. Either instance can entail a lot of responsibility, which can translate to lots of stress. 

Typically, a good night’s rest can provide people with a mental reset to be able to curb their stressful state. This is because sleep eliminates the conditions for cortisol—the primary stress hormone—to build.

Cortisol is bad for several reasons. Having too much cortisol can cause fatigue, anxiety, and a slew of physical medical conditions. This can take a toll on your body, which can adversely affect performance.

To reverse the impacts of stress on the body, it’s vital to sleep consistently every night at least 7 hours at a time. Sleeping for too short a time can cause cortisol levels to spike while getting enough of it can keep it under control.

Furthermore, sleep also helps your body recover and rejuvenate, which can make you feel less stressed in your waking life and more able to perform your best. Under these conditions, you can be a competent and truly value-adding leader to your team.

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