I remember giving a talk to a 6th-grade class in a local school a few years ago. I asked what they were learning at the moment and they told me about a wonderful project they did about famous inventions. So, I asked them one by one, “What did they think was the greatest invention?” When I got to the last boy in the room he responded, “Just hit the snooze button.”
The class laughed but in that simple answer, you could hear his appreciation for the amazing gift of a few minutes extra in bed. One of the greatest struggles that we go through first thing in the morning is fighting our bodies’ desire to stay in bed.
We are still living in the midst of the COVID pandemic but there are hopeful signs that we might be coming out of it in the coming year. However, there is another epidemic whose impact is still plaguing us – the lack of sleep. We should be afraid of the research findings. 70% of adults report that they get insufficient sleep at least one night a month, and 11% report insufficient sleep every night.
We are a nation that Is chronically sleep-deprived.
What’s the big deal? Well, lack of sleep deeply impacts our ability to function. Our ability to focus, our reaction times, our ability to learn, our moods, and our memory all suffer. In the workplace, we see an increase in accidents, poor decision-making, and lower performance levels.
Our ability to access emotional intelligence skills also take a hit. Even those who are emotionally skilled will struggle in demanding situations without adequate sleep. I have coached many leaders who have acted as if they were superwoman or superman and believed that they can run on four to five hours of sleep. That of course, is a delusion.
We take for granted that for top athletes to perform optimally, they need adequate sleep. Is it not the same for leaders and managers? Maybe we are encouraging the wrong behaviors. Instead of saying, “Isn’t she amazing being able to work with such little sleep?” maybe we should say, “Bravo for hitting the snooze button and taking an extra hour of sleep.”
In this week’s EQ workout, I want us to listen to our bodies and their needs a little closer. One way of doing this is by incorporating the body scan into our daily routine. The body scan is an exercise that simply brings attention to the physical sensations in the body. It’s performed by scanning through each part of the body one by one and being attentive in the moment to what you are experiencing. The exercise can last as little as 3 minutes or go as long as 30-45 minutes depending on how much time you want to focus on each part of the body.
The body scan exercise has been shown to help reduce anxiety and stress and improve sleep patterns. If you have trouble sleeping and are carrying a lot of stress and anxiety with you to bed, the body scan is a wonderful exercise to practice just before hitting the hay. I created a handout that breaks down the body scan exercise step by step.