The Most Important Contributor to High Performance

In coaching and business circles, the overwhelming goal is high performance. There's much written about how to create high performance habits, teams, and organizations, yet very little mention is made, if at all, of the most important contributor to high performance: Sleep. Cutting back on sleep has even been suggested by some performance gurus as a way to gain more productive time!

More of us are sleeping less than six hours a night. This has significant consequences for our cognitive, psychological, and physical health, and even our longevity. 

Here are some consequences of not getting enough sleep:
  • Your brain actually slows down!
  • After just one night of not enough sleep your vigilance is reduced, even if you don't feel tired. A work week of short sleep cannot be made up on the weekend, leaving you in a potential state of chronic attention deficits.
  • It reduces your focus and increases your distractability.
  • It's harder to come up with brilliant business ideas! You need a well-rested brain for that.
  • It makes you more irritable.
  • Loss of REM sleep (rapid-eye movement sleep that happens later in the night and when people experience dreaming) has been linked to increased inflammation, increased sensitivity to pain and increased child and adolescent obesity, and memory difficulties.
  • Your brain doesn't clear away molecular waste, an important process during sleep. 
  • Over time, not getting enough sleep could lead to Alzheimer's dementia.
From this list, it's obvious that, without an adequate amount of sleep, it's impossible to perform at your best.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine considers the problem so dire that it recently issued a position statement on the importance of sleep to human health. Their Healthy People 2030 initiative includes a number of sleep-related initiatives including sleep health in education, clinical practice, inpatient and long-term care, public health promotion, and the workplace.

How you can help your clients

Humans are a mind-body system. Working solely with the mind without addressing physical health is working with only one-half of the system. Encouraging clients to develop better sleep habits will accelerate coaching results . . . and create improved health outcomes for your clients.

How employers can help

"The CDC advises that employers can help their employees get adequate sleep and better sleep quality through evidence-based workplace health programs. Suggested strategies to promote healthy sleep in the workplace include providing a sleep education program for all employees, permitting short naps during work breaks, establishing fatigue risk management systems, referring workers with sleep problems to a health care provider or accredited sleep center, and modifying environmental factors to promote worker well-being and alertness. In addition to improving sleep and reducing fatigue, workplace interventions may be associated with reduced absenteeism and presenteeism, improved performance, and better overall quality of life."


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Freeman, D., Sheaves, B., Goodwin, G. M., et al. (2017). The effects of improving sleep on mental health (OASIS): a randomised controlled trial with mediation analysis. The Lancet Psychiatry4(10), 749–758.

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Lee, S. (2021). Naturally Occurring Consecutive Sleep Loss and Day-to-Day Trajectories of Affective and Physical Well-Being. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, kaab055,

Miller, C.B., Robertson, D.J., Johnson, K.A., et al. (2021). Tired and lack focus? Insomnia increases distractibility. Journal of Health Psychology, 26, 795-804. doi:10.1177/1359105319842927

Naiman, R. (2017), Dreamless: the silent epidemic of REM sleep loss. Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci., 1406, 77-85.

Nir, Y., Andrillon, T., Marmelshtein, A. et al. (3017). Selective neuronal lapses precede human cognitive lapses following sleep deprivation. Nature Medecine, 23, 1474–1480.

Ramar, K.  Malhotra, R. K., Carden, K. A., et al. (2021). Sleep is essential to health: An American Academy of Sleep Medicine position statement. Journal of Sleep Medicine. Published Online:June 21, 2021

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