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The importance of sleep to develop leadership

Sleep is a critical component for daily functioning and for the optimisation of cognitive and physical performance. Such performance benefits are key for the success of leaders. Supporting businesses to optimise leader and team performance through optimising fitness for work is just one of the many ways Hindsight can support your business.

Dr Ian Dunican, Associate Consultant with Hindsight, is a leading expert in this field and has worked with Industry and Elite Sport teams to optimise performance. In addition, Ian has operational military experience before turning his focus to business and is a keen ultra-endurance athlete and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt.

In this article, Ian will discuss the importance of sleep; Sleep is essential for human survival and the human body’s basic physiological functioning, such as regulating our body temperature and our immune function. Sleep is a process that supports physiological and psychological recovery to enable next day physical and cognitive performance. Loss of sleep can lead to lapses in attention and a decline in cognitive performance including slowing reaction time. Many people think the brain is inactive during sleep, but science tells a different story.

Sleep in humans is divided into two main types Rapid Eye Movement (REM) and Non-Rapid Eye Movement (NREM). Many processes occur during sleep and throughout the different stages of sleep, such as “physical repair” with the release of growth hormone during stage 3 NREM sleep and “psychological repair” with the possible facilitation on memory consolidation and augmentation of subsequent cognitive performance during REM sleep.

The typical adult goes through 4-5 sleep cycles between the time at lights-out and the time at wake up. These cycles include alterations between the two main types of sleep mentioned in previous posts; Non-REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and REM sleep. Non-REM sleep has three stages ranging from light (1) to deep (3). Most of our deep sleep occurs early in the night. During this time the body and brain activity slows down as the processes for physical recovery needed after activities such as lifting weights, physical work or daily activity occurs. REM sleep is when most dreams happen, and during REM the brain is very active. REM episodes occur on average every 90 minutes. Most of our REM sleep occurs late in the sleep period, and while the exact purpose of REM sleep is not clear, it seems necessary for memory, learning, or mental restoration.

What is sleep and why do we need it? The answer to this question is still not fully known, but we do know that without sleep we cannot live or function at our best. On average a person requires somewhere between 7 -9 hours of sleep per night. However, in many countries, we are getting between 6 –7 hours, and if you work shiftwork or travel a lot, you may be achieving only 4- 5 hours per night. Sleep is similar to a fuel tank, what you take out you must restore. And while we wouldn’t dream of entering a competition on an empty stomach, many of us think nothing of struggling through the next match on an empty “sleep tank.”

If you enjoyed that piece, head over to YouTube to check out Ian’s TEDX Perth talk titled “Sleep in and Win”

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