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Today Jaime Hlavin brings another  insightful post . . .  about the impact of sleep (or a lack thereof) on leaders. I know you’re going to enjoy today’s post ~ John

If ever there was a child meant to have a pet dog, that child is my 12-year old daughter. From the time she was just a toddler, Karis was magnetically drawn to dogs. And I’m pretty certain dogs felt the same way about her.

Much to my horror, on countless occasions she fearlessly approached and engaged large dogs – squealing in delight as her chubby toddler hand brushed over their smiling, fang-filled muzzles. And while visiting the homes of dog-owning friends and family, Karis could be always found snuggling her face into the furry necks of the beloved pets.

But alas, this dog-whispering child was born into a home where the man of the house was staunchly “anti-canine.” We worked diligently over the years to wear him down and eventually succeeded. In September we welcomed a tiny ball of fluff into our home. Izzy Jane Hlavin is a petite Goldendoodle and she is amazing! We’re obsessed.

In spite of being absolutely in love with this little creature, I’ve discovered that puppy ownership is a lot like having a human newborn in the house. Except the newborn runs around. And doesn’t wear a diaper. And has really, really sharp little teeth. But much like a human newborn, Izzy didn’t sleep through the night.

For the first weeks, I got up with her at 3 a.m. to take her outside to use the “bathroom.”  The sleep deprivation caught up to me a lot more quickly than it did when my human children were babies because that was a long, long time ago and fortysomething is no joke.

My colleagues at work noticed that my memory for details was slipping. And I dropped the ball on a few things. I was less in control of my emotions and I caught a cold twice during that stretch of sleeplessness. All of these things were related to my lack of sleep, as you’ll soon see.

Eventually, I trained Izzy to sleep through the night without needing a trip to the backyard. Those first few days of a full 8 hours of sleep were luxurious. It felt like I had gained an entirely new lease on life. Even now, thinking back, I could almost cry. I know this sounds extremely dramatic, but for me, sleep has always been a dear commodity. I’ve never struggled with insomnia and to this day, I could easily sleep in till noon on Saturdays. So, as you can imagine, reuniting with my precious Z’s meant a great deal to me.

Many people resist getting adequate rest various reasons and even wear sleep deprivation like a badge of honor. (John released a fabulous podcast regarding this topic earlier this week.) However, depriving yourself of sleep negatively affects quality of life. I think this can be especially true in the life of the leader as the pressures and stress of guiding people and an organization can often lead to lack of sleep.

The difference good, healthy sleep makes in an individual’s life is noticeable. It is vital for a rich, full, productive life. According to WebMD, sustained, good sleep will do remarkable things for your physical and mental health. “Good sleep” for the average adult is considered 7-9 hours each night (not just once in a while). Once my sleep patterns returned to normal, I did some research and made some surprising connections to my own situation:

When your brain is rested, it’s sharper. The ability to recall details is heightened. Also, long-term memory and learning ability are increased.  Scientists believe that proper sleep enables our brains to “take out the trash.” It helps our brains clear unnecessary information. In my own situation, I saw this return as sleep improved.

Better sleep boosts your mood. Did you know that your brain processes your emotions while you sleep? Therefore your mood is better after you’ve received enough sleep. On the flip side, chronic lack of sleep makes one more prone to depression and anxiety or panic disorders. Personally, my own emotions stabilized upon sleeping better.

Good sleep builds our immune systems. Ongoing lack of sleep changes the way immune system cells work thus weakening the body’s ability to fight off germs and sickness. That explained the repeated illness in my own situation.

There are many other physical benefits to receiving proper sleep. During sleep, blood pressure goes down giving your heart and blood vessels a bit of rest. Also while we sleep, our body produces hormones that aid in appetite suppression and can help with healthy weight maintenance. The amount of glucose in our bloodstream drops reducing the likelihood of the development of diabetes. These are only a few of the remarkable things that happen to our bodies when we maintain good sleep habits.

Amazing things happen to us when we are getting proper sleep. We function better physically and emotionally when well rested. I would encourage you to do yourself – and those around you – a huge favor by incorporating healthier sleep into your life. A few tips for doing this include:

  1. Establish a soothing bedtime routine.
  2. Limit fluid intake before bed.
  3. Exercise earlier in the day.
  4. Avoid caffeine and other chemicals that interfere with sleep.
  5. Keep evening meals light.

It’s my hope that we can all incorporate better sleep into our lives and thus reap the benefits. So, snuggle that puppy and turn in a bit early tonight.

I’m rooting and praying for you!

John Opalewski

Author John Opalewski

John Opalewski is a graduate of Oral Roberts University. He served as a pastor for fifteen years. He has worked in the business world for nearly two decades, serving in multiple leadership roles. John's experience as a leader in both the church and business arenas has made him a sought-after international speaker, coach and mentor.

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