How sleeping more can help me to become a better team leader

Monday, June 7, 2021

2021 has provided plenty of challenges for companies to overcome, but read our latest blog on how sleep could be the secret to your company’s success.

Team leaders have the capacity to lift up and support their team so they can reach their full potential. If you are a team leader, getting adequate sleep is an essential way you can stay strong for your team. We’ve highlighted the negative effects of sleep loss and provided tips and advice on how you can get more sleep and use a positive attitude towards sleep to benefit you and your team.


How does sleep loss affect my effectiveness as a team leader?

Knowledge,  experience,  and motivation are essential to being an effective team leader. However,  research indicates that  ‘obtaining adequate sleep’  should be added to the list of desirable traits of a team leader. Your work performance is highly related to how much sleep you obtain. When you don’t get adequate sleep, you will find it difficult to recall information, such as procedures, and pay attention to multiple tasks. Tired team leaders are more likely to make wrong decisions because risk-taking  behaviour1  and biases and prejudices are triggered2. A lack of sleep also has a  negative impact on your mood with the literature indicating that sleep deprivation is linked to anxiety3. If you do not sleep enough, you are also less likely to accurately identify your teams’ emotions and alleviate conflicts at the workplace, and more probable to blame your team and express anger4. Good team leaders maintain a  positive atmosphere,  solve conflicts with respect,  listen to their team’s concerns, are approachable, and motivate others. When things go wrong, they do not blame others but, instead, stay patient and figure out how to resolve the situation. They are fair, acknowledge good work, and provide feedback. It is difficult to consistently behave in this way when you aren’t getting adequate sleep. You are more likely to misperceive how others feel, be pessimistic and try to solve conflicts through maladaptive strategies, such as negative comments.


Your sleep loss is ‘contagious’

Team leaders are on stage every day. People in your team are watching you and learning from your behaviour. If you often go to work having had inadequate sleep, your team members may think that you expect them to do the same. Working when tired can quickly become the norm in a team. Since sleep loss has a negative impact on health,  safety,  mood, performance,  and decision making,  it is easy to see how this can result in poor team effectiveness.


Why sleep loss is bad for you and your team

Sleep loss causes an increase in incidents and accidents. You may also see delays in completing projects because sleep-deprived people are less likely to invest effort in performing well. Research has also shown that sleep-deprived people are more likely to start pretending they work while surfing the internet for personal use, a behaviour called ‘cyberloafing’. Moreover, sleep-deprived people tend to call sick more often5. In general,  adults should regularly sleep between 7 and 9 hours per night. Research consistently shows that people who do not sleep enough are more prone to physical health issues. In a systematic review of the literature6, it was found that sleeping less than 6 hours led to an elevated risk of hypertension, coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and obesity. If someone is struggling with sleep loss, they may take sick days, not because they are ill but because they need to take time to recover.


How to promote a positive attitude towards sleep in your team

1. Set a good example
Promote the importance of getting enough sleep by arriving well-rested at work. Your team members are more likely to improve their sleep habits if they see you doing this.
2. Communicate the importance of sleep
Ensure your team understands that you take sleep loss seriously and that it is fundamental to health, team effectiveness, performance, and safety.
3. Be approachable
Your team members should feel that they can talk to you when they have a problem, and this includes sleep loss.
4. Pay attention
If you pay attention to your teams’ behaviour, you may notice they are sometimes showing signs of sleepiness, for example struggling to keep their eyes open in a meeting or on a night shift. You need to explore this with an open mind in order to fully to understand why this is occurring and to identify an effective solution. It could be, for example, due to long work hours, time of day, high ambient temperature, late night socialising, or a combination of all of these factors.
5. Make further information and support available
Make sure that your team have access to the resources they need to understand the importance of adequate sleep and that they do their best to obtain it.

To summarise, prioritising adequate sleep is key if you want to lead with your head and heart, and not be reactionary. By setting a good example, you will be helping your team to also improve team effectiveness.




1 Womack, S., Hook, J., Reyna, S., & Ramos, M. (2013). Sleep loss and risk-taking behavior: a review of the literature. Behavioral Sleep Medicine, 11(5), 343-359.

2 Ghumman, S., & Barnes, C.M. (2013). Sleep and prejudice: a resource recovery approach. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 43, 166–178.

3 Sagaspe, P., Sanchez-Ortuno, M., Charles, A., Taillard, J., Valtat, C., Bioulac, B., & Philip, P. (2006). Effects of sleep deprivation on color-word, emotional, and specific stroop interference and on self-reported anxiety. Brain and Cognition, 60(1), 76-87.

4 Gujar, N., McDonald, S. A., Nishida, M., Walker, M. P. (2011). A role for REM sleep in recalibrating the sensitivity of the human brain to specific emotions. Cerebral Cortex, 21(1), 115-123.

5 Sivertsen B., Björnsdóttir, E., Øverland, S., Bjorvatn, B., & Salo, P. J. (2013). The joint contribution of insomnia and obstructive sleep apnoea on sickness absence. Sleep Research, 22(2), 223-30.

6 Itani, O., Jike, M., Watanabe, E., & Kaneita, Y. (2017). Short sleep duration and health outcomes: a systematic review, meta-analysis, and meta-regression. Sleep Medicine, 32, 246-256.