Did you know if you have been awake for close to 17 hours you likely have the cognitive function of a person with a blood alcohol level of .05%. After 20 hours it’s close .1%.
That’s a bad place to be if you are in a leadership position and are expected to be, and are renumerated for being on top of your game. It’s bad enough if you are a corporate executive or office worker, but what if you are a doctor, heavy vehicle operator or pilot?
Much like the drunk driver who knows they are dunk but drives anyway, people know they are exhausted and tired but try to make high level decisions.
With the exception of the military and some industries like Aviation, who are highly experienced at managing and planning for sleep deprivation, spotting it and training for it, the rest of us push on because we are aware we are tired but are rarely aware of the impact it has on us. In the white collar world there is very little oversight through HR policies and procedures to manage its impacts on business. It is even seen as a badge of honour to wok insane hours forgoing sleep and ‘dominating’ in the workplace.
Your prefrontal cortex (the front part of your neocortex) is responsible for executive (brain) function and by extension your effective functioning as an executive.
The neocortex is responsible for:
• Sensory perception,
• motor commands,
• and language.
The prefrontal cortex (executive functioning) is responsible for:
• Problem solving,
• and executing plans.
Your neocortex suffers heavily when tired. You literally suffer cognitive impairment. You can have fun playing with this standard psychology test for neocortex impairment. It’s called the Stroop test here. Well rested in the morning or after a good nap and you can get 100% providing you are otherwise mentally healthy. Try it after a few drinks or lack of sleep at the end of a long day (say 20 hours) and see how you compare.
Look again at that list above. Those functions are vital to being an effective manager, leader, or even just being on top of your game in ANY role within your business or personal life. Exhausted parents struggle to manage children and relationships effectively compounding the tiredness further. Exhausted executives make poor decisions at every level and interaction that can compound further leading to more issues with stress and fatigue.
You can deep dive into the effects of poor sleep on executives and corporate outcomes in this McKinsey&Company research report
Poor sleep is not necessarily the result of a poor work culture or a recent heavy travel schedule. Real things like depression, medical conditions, diseases, diet and marriage or family problems can contribute. The lack of sleep, as you can see in that list, can compound your ability to make sound rational decisions when trying to deal with and manage those situations, leading to a downward spiral.
At Performance Solutions we are both coaches and psychologists – we can help you get back to your best at work and at home.