Sleep deprivation and executive mental health.
Sleep deprivation has a hugely negative impact on executive mental health. What starts off as a short-term problem, for many people, quickly becomes a deteriorating vicious cycle.
Numerous studies have shown that most adults, 60-70%, do not have enough sleep to perform well. Sleep deprivation, even by a relatively small amount (25%) has a cumulative effect and dramatically impairs mental functioning. People deprived of only two hours per night, from their normal patterns, over the course of two weeks, perform as badly on mental functioning tests as people who have had no sleep at all for two nights. That means if you are sleep deprived you are probably damaging your health, your career, your company, and those around you with your decisions.
Physicians all over the world, make fatal mistakes when sleep deprived (http://qz.com/389958/its-time-for-doctors-to-admit-that-our-lack-of-sleep-is-killing-patients/). When pilots have been awake for more than 12 hours they are much more likely to have accidents. Drivers, too, have increased accident rates as fatigue builds up (http://think.direct.gov.uk/fatigue.html). Professionals of all kinds make serious mistakes when they are sleep deprived, by even a small amount.
While the impact of those mistakes varies between professions, their co-incidence with sleep deprivation does not. The logical question for any professional or executive affected by sleep deprivation is: what can I do about it?
Most leaders I have helped over the years, in executive psychotherapy, who were suffering sleep deprivation, were aware of that fact, and knew the obvious answer, (“Get more sleep!”), but, and it is a big but, they felt unable to do anything about it, or, they put off doing anything about it until “after” some indeterminate point in the future.
For most, before they seeking therapy, the consequences of their sleep deprivation continue to build: relationship challenges, mistakes, missed opportunities, physical health problems…
Most major illnesses have been linked to long-term sleep deprivation.
By the time “after” arrives the behaviours and habits that are responsible for sleep deprivation have become so deeply ingrained that most sleep deprivation sufferers have become blind to what they can do to solve the problem.
For many people, long-term sleep deprivation morphs into insomnia. For others, insomnia is the cause of long-term sleep deprivation. For almost all, a vicious cycle emerges: lack of sleep causes performance problems, which take more time to solve, which leads to reduced opportunity to sleep, which leads to even more performance impairment problems, which…
Breaking the sleep deprivation cycle can take outside help. Executive psychotherapy is one option.