Sleep: Your legal performance enhancer

Arianna Huffington
Arianna Huffington speaks at the SAS Global Forum Executive Conference

Our society lives under a collective delusion that burning out is a requirement to success.

We’ve been conditioned to believe that sacrificing family, relationships and what’s personally important opens the door to achievement. But how can you be an effective leader, run a successful company or properly manage employees when you aren’t functioning at your optimal potential?

Arianna Huffington came to that conclusion the hard way, when she found herself with a broken cheek bone after collapsing from complete exhaustion. With a bloodied face, Huffington had to ask herself one tough but honest question: “Is this what success really has to look like?”

If you look at science, the answer is no. Modern science proves that if individuals take care of themselves they are more effective, yet we rarely act with that proven research in mind.

“Everyone knows the exact battery life remaining on their cellphones,” said Huffington, “But how many of us are self-aware enough to know when our own battery life is getting low?”

At the recent SAS Global Forum Executive Conference in Las Vegas, Huffington explained that this non-stop, multi-tasking, never-turn-it-off mentality is a societal shift that has to stop, and it’s one that’s heavily impacting executive-level leadership.

“We have somehow convinced executives that nutrition and exercise are important, but we’ve placed zero value on sleep,” she said.

But it’s important to know that performance can be dramatically improved when we first take care of ourselves. Think about it, why else would a flight attendant tell you to put your oxygen mask on first? It’s because you cannot be useful to anyone if you cannot breathe yourself.

Since the Industrial Revolution, we’ve allowed ourselves to believe that it’s acceptable to treat people like machines. Whether congratulating someone for working 24/7, or using phrases like “I’m swamped,” or “I’m drowning,” we are seeing clear indicators of where people are pushing themselves past the normal human limits. Huffington challenged executives to start removing those phrases from their vocabulary, as they encourage and celebrate a chaotic life.

So, what can we do to fix it? It’s simple: Get more sleep. The majority of all individuals require seven to nine hours of rest to reach ultimate peak performance. And if you’re wondering where you fall within that spectrum, go to sleep without setting your alarm. Your body will wake you up when rested, and that’s the measure to go from.

With scientific links between leadership performance and adequate sleep, Huffington reminded executives that their role is to see the iceberg before it hits the Titanic. “You are responsible for spotting the dangers and for seeing the opportunities before they are obvious to everyone else. You won’t do that without sleep,” she said.

Huffington’s master class in sleep was a reminder to realize the blessings the world has granted and the abundance we’ve all been given, rather than what is lacking.

“Going to sleep at night is a reminder that life is a dance between making it happen and letting it happen,” said Huffington. “Contrary to the illusion that’s been painted, we don’t make everything happen, some of it just happens by being present, alert and available for the next great thing.”


About Author

Anjelica Cummings

Manager, Social Innovation Programs, Partnerships and Communications

Anjelica Cummings manages SAS' Social Innovation programs, partnerships and communications strategy. She is responsible for leading a senior team of experts who bring SAS' analytics and advocacy efforts together. The Social Innovation programs and partnerships apply SAS® technology toward the world's most pressing needs. Anjelica brings a decade of communications experiences to her role. Over the years she has developed, led and implemented strategic communications programs for dozens of national organizations. Whether it's a strategy designed for the media, customers, partners, employees or the community, Anjelica believes the fundamentals of communications remain the same: To bring greater understanding, visibility and connection to the issues that matter most. She is a guest lecturer for North Carolina State University and a former board member of the International Association of Business Communicators.

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