It’s No Halloween Trick: Sleep Deprived Talent are Grumpy Talent

October 31, 2010 by Ken Nowack

“I’m not asleep… but that doesn’t mean I’m awake”

Author Unknown

We all seem to be working longer and harder with health, sleep and mood being negatively affected.

Research by Sylvia Ann-Hewlett and Carol Luce show that 62% of high earning individuals work more than 50 hours per week, 35% work more than 60 hours a week and 10% work more than 80 hours1.  Their findings suggest that more than 70% of professionals reported not getting enough sleep.

Leaders and others know that sleep-deprived talent (and leaders) are typically moody, miserable and just not much fun to be around. New research from UC Berkeley using MRI technology helps explain why for the first time.

The study is the first to show exactly what areas of the brain are affected by sleep deprivation2.

In the UC Berkeley study of 26 young adults, half of the subjects were kept awake for 35 hours straight and the other half were allowed a normal night’s sleep in that same time period. Then all of the subjects were hooked up to an MRI and shown a number of images while the researchers monitored what happened in their brains as each image was shown.

The sleep-deprived subjects had a significant activity in the amygdala (the section of the brain that puts the body on alert to protect itself and control emotions) and simultaneously activity slowed down in the prefrontal cortex, which controls logical reasoning.  However, subjects who had gotten a full night of sleep showed normal brain activity.

Americans are among the most sleep-deprived people in the world with 40% of Americans getting less than seven hours of sleep a night, according to a 2009 poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, and 75% reported having some sort of sleep disorder one or two nights a week.

What this means for most people is that a sleepless night or very poor quality of sleep can cause employees to overreact to emotional challenges that they would otherwise be able to tolerate without any trouble and impair decision making and problem solving.

Our own research with our stress/resilience assessment called StressScan in a study of over 1,151 working professionals found the following results:

  • Missed an entire night of sleep or large proportion because of work or play — 8.2% Often or always
  • Received less sleep than you require because you stayed up too late or got up too early — 35.7% often or always  and 36.5% Sometimes
  • Received less sleep than required because you had difficult either falling asleep or staying asleep for as long as usual — 21.7% often or always

So, look out if you have sleep deprived talent and leaders who lack emotional intelligence — their amygdala already is compromised and that’s no Halloween trick or treat….Be well…
[tags]insomnia, sleep, fatigue, depression, sleep disorders, fatigue countermeasures, REM, NREM, circadian rhythms, stress, health, job burnout, kenneth nowack, ken nowack, nowack[/tags]

  1. Hewlett, A. & Luce, C. (2006).  Extreme jobs.  The dangerous allure of the 70-hour workweek.  Harvard Business Review, December 2006, pp. 1-12 []
  2. Yoo, S., Gujar,N., Hu,P., Jolesz, F., & Walker, M. (2007). The human emotional brain without sleep — a prefrontal amygdala disconnect.  Current Biology. Vol 17, R877-R878, 23 October 2007 []

Kenneth Nowack, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist (PSY13758) and President & Chief Research Officer/Co-Founder of Envisia Learning, is a member of the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations. Ken also serves as the Associate Editor of Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research. His recent book Clueless: Coaching People Who Just Don’t Get It is available for free for a limited time by signing up for free blog updates (Learn more at our website)

Posted in Engagement, Wellness

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