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How can burned out, sleep derived leading men and women serve their teams, families, and organizations well?

Not surprisingly, research continues to establish a VERY solid connection between limited or impaired sleep and burnout. As we proceed with our plan for UN-BURNOUT let’s look more closely at the “S” in our UN-BURNOUT B.A.S.I.C.S. which stands for Sleep and Serve More!

This study by Ekstedt et al. (2006) concluded, “Occupational burnout is characterized by impaired sleep. It is suggested that impaired sleep may play a role in the development of fatigue or exhaustion in burnout.”

Another study demonstrated the connection between sleep problems, burnout and … cardiovascular disease (!) : “There is a growing body of evidence that burnout is a major factor in the development of cardiovascular disease. Burnout has also been linked with problems pertaining to …generally poor sleep, lack of feeling refreshed in the morning, and increased daytime sleepiness and fatigue…burnout is a serious issue… which appears to carry significant longer-term consequences on cardiovascular health… “(Saleh and Shapiro, 2008)

Walker does specify that an extremely small number of individuals appear to be able to function on six hours of sleep due to a genetic sub-variant. But before you nod your head up and down and “mm-hmm” me, that number specifically is “but a fraction of 1 percent of the population…”

Aaaaand in case you might be entertaining a related thought along the lines of, “Nope. I don’t notice ANY impact on my mental or physical performance because of less sleep…” YOU’RE RIGHT! We don’t accurately perceive…at all… our own sleep deprivation.

Finally, one more factor to consider specifically related to sleep and a connection that I find myself reminding many of my clients in my coaching and consulting practice is the impact of sleep loss on emotional reactivity. A brain with too little sleep pendulums between emotional extremes of positive and negative. And both extremes are unhealthy.

When we think about this impact in relationship to our job duties, leadership, family responsibilities, it’s not hard to start recognizing the significance of too little sleep. The data will hopefully compel professional, corporate, healthcare and educational leaders to reconsider the misunderstanding that “more time doing” yields “more getting done” when this cannot happen with sleep-deprived employees. Productivity is negatively impacted when employees, leaders, healthcare professionals, managers, CEO’s, teachers, front line staff are getting too little sleep.

Consider all of the times throughout your day when you need to make a decision, solve a problem, reason through multiple angles of an issue, keep your emotions in check when something doesn’t go right. Less sleep makes all of this much more difficult.

And if all of these skill sets are compromised at work and home and during the commute between them, it’s also easily evident how sleep impairment lends to the emotional exhaustion, cynicism, defeated, “it’s-just-a-job-ness” nature of burnout.

Shifting from “Sleep More” to “Serve More”, which reflects the well-established Servant Leadership framework that prioritizes “serving first”, let’s consider the likelihood of showing up to your workplace, work team, kindergarten pick-up, meeting, lunch or family dinner with optimal capacity to listen, be self-aware, offer empathy, coach, resolve conflict or collaborate…. Not happening.

Servant Leadership has been embraced by numerous successful organizations who recognize that this approach expands an ROI focus from sheer profit, investment, return to a more comprehensive ROI that expands these hard benefits to include, for example, the greater impact of manager development opportunities, leadership skill-building for employees, improved employee engagement and the associated increases in productivity. Servant Leadership has been well-established to enhance individuals, teams, organizations and families.

However, a Servant Leadership mindset and skill set can be challenging to maintain. And considering the significant and many potential day-to-day impacts connected to SLEEP, maybe shifting that 7 am meeting to 8 am or closing the laptop and setting down the phone one hour earlier each night, could translate to your own and others’ UN-BURNOUT!

Drop me a line- I’d love to hear your plan specifics for SLEEP more and SERVE more!

This is WEEK 3 of our 6-WEEK TO UN-BURNOUT B.A.S.I.C.S. Plan! Don’t miss the introductory post that includes a template and Quick Guide for you to chart your own plan. Part 1 starts with B from “BASICS” and focuses on “Be You! Authentically”. Part 2 starts with A and “Acknowledge: How Looking Back Helps us Go Forward”


Ekstedt, M., Soderstrom, M., Akerstedt, T., Nilsson, J., Sondergaard, H, & Aleksander, P. (2006). Disturbed sleep and fatigue in occupational burnout. Scandinavian Journal of Work and Environmental Health, 32(2): 121-131.

Saleh, P., & Shapiro, C. M. (2008). Disturbed sleep and burnout: Implications for long-term health [Editorial]. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 65(1), 1–3. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychores.2008.05.028

Soderstrom, M., Jeding, K., Ekstedt, M., Perski, A. & Akerstedt, T. 2012. Insufficient sleep predicts clinical burnout. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology. 17(2):175-83. doi: 10.1037/a0027518Walker, M. (2017). Why We Sleep: Unlocking the power of sleep and dreams. New York, NY: Scribner.