Travis Bradberry is an expert in the field of emotional intelligence. He provides testing and training to three out of four Fortune 500 companies and has authored the popular book Emotional Intelligence 2.0. The book posits the theory that though emotional intelligence is a critical predictor of job performance, only one in three employees are aware of their own emotions as they arise. When Bradberry talks about factors contributing to emotional intelligence, corporations listen, and he has recently been talking a great deal about its relationship with getting a good night’s sleep.
Bradberry feels strongly that when employees choose to push themselves to continue working rather than taking the time to sleep, they are not only harming themselves physically, but also dramatically impacting their productivity. His point is backed up by science. The division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard’s medical school has indicated that short-term productivity advancements that are derived from skipping sleep are counteracted by the impact of sleep deprivation on employees’ concentration, mood and cloudy thinking in the days that follow. Some studies have shown that working while drunk yields better results than working while sleep deprived.
In addition to the impairment that sleep deprivation causes to your brain function, problem solving, creativity and stress, it also has been linked to serious chronic health conditions, including stroke, heart conditions, type 2 diabetes and obesity. Immune function suffers and even your appearance is affected as the collagen in your skin breaks down.
There are a number of studies that have shown that those who get adequate sleep live longer and have greater overall wellbeing, and at the same time there are studies that show that those who don’t sleep enough are plagued by health problems. But little has been said about the topic of the way that sleep relates to career success, and even less about how getting enough sleep is directly linked to a person’s level of emotional intelligence. Those who are top performers have been found to have high levels of emotional intelligence, which is dubbed EQ. In fact, Bradberry’s company’s research has shown that 90% of top performers are also high EQ individuals, and one of the traits that they share is the fact that they practice good sleep hygiene. They recognize that it is essential to not only get enough sleep, but also to make certain that the sleep that they get is of high quality. They naturally practice specific sleep hygiene habits that help them to maintain the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep that they need each night in order to prepare them for the challenges and demands of their careers. They also recognize that when work or life gets particularly demanding, there are things that they must do to counteract factors that might interfere with their sleep in order to maintain their high performance level.
Bradberry cites a number of top strategies that have served high EQ individuals well, and advises those who are interested in climbing to the top of their own career ladders to take heed and adopt them for themselves.
Eliminate Sleep Aids of all Kinds
Many people hear the phrase sleep aids and automatically think of prescription sleeping pills, but the truth is that there are a lot of items that can be used to help us fall off at night. For some, it’s a glass of wine or scotch, while others go the traditional route with Ambien or Valium. Many people rely on over-the-counter pills or even take swigs of Nyquil to ensure that the stress of work is drowned out, but the truth is that all of these provide an unnatural method of falling off – and they do not provide the most restful sleep. Strange dreams and cloudy thinking in the morning are just a couple of the ill effects produced by these sedative agents, and that is a good indication that your sleep is not of high quality. Instead, try cutting out the caffeine and pursuing other methods that will help you fall asleep more easily so that the sleep that you get is high quality.
Understand Caffeine’s Impact
Though most people think that a cup of coffee in the morning won’t affect them at night, the truth is that the coffee you drink at 8 a.m. is still with you at 25% strength at 8:00 at night. Anything later is going to be with you at half strength when you go to sleep, and that means that your rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is going to be diminished. REM is the most productive, most recuperative stage of sleep that your body experiences, so cheating yourself of this is definitely putting you behind the eight ball in terms of performance. This means that you’re much more likely to reach for more coffee the next day, creating a vicious circle in which you are always running at less than top capacity.
Understand the Role of Your Devices
We all rely on our smart phones and tablets, but using them in the evening fools your brain into thinking that it is morning, and is likely to keep you awake when your brain is in desperate need of sleep. The blue light works against you at night in the same way that the sun works in your favor in the morning. It reduces your melatonin production. During the day it means that you are alert and full of energy – unfortunately, it has the same affect at night. Turn off the devices after dinner and you’ll find yourself falling asleep much more quickly and restfully.
Stick to a Regular Schedule
There is a lot to be said for being disciplined, and this is especially true when it comes to sleep. The more consistent your waking and bedtime hours, the more easily you will get up in the morning and drop off at night.
Stop Working at Night
This is the toughest piece of advice, and one of the most important. Though it may see counter-intuitive, it is important that you give your brain a break from your work tasks. Checking email or finishing up projects before bed puts you in a state of heightened stimulation, and that will definitely work against your ability to get the sleep you need, as well as your chances of waking refreshed