The Link Between Sleep and Effective Leadership
Sun, April 18, 2021

The Link Between Sleep and Effective Leadership


The leadership style that a boss takes is sure to affect the employees even past working hours, regardless of whether the employees are showing up every day in the workplace or working from home. This is according to a new study, which is published by Psychology Today.

Marjaana Sianoj from Oregon Health and Science University and colleagues said that employees who perform better on the job are those who also sleep better. Not only they are happier, but they are also safer in jobs that present physical harm because of accidents. However, based on the estimates of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of US adults get too little sleep or they sleep less than 7 hours per night. This can only mean that many workers are sleep-deprived.

How a bad boss can hurt employees’ sleep

Sianoj and the team explained that toxic bosses can create sleep problems for their workers in ways aside from increasing their stress levels. Two employer policies can lead to sleep deprivation among workers: sleep leadership and the expectation that employees are available 24/7.

The first one is a type of “sleep leadership,” wherein the boss publicly claims that they only sleep for a few hours a night. It creates a bad example to the workers because the boss himself or herself is downgrading the value of sleep hygiene, which contributes to overall performance and health. The researchers referred to it as the “work, nonwork, and sleep” or WNS framework.

It is poor leadership when the boss brags about needing almost no sleep to function at work. This is because it creates a guilt dynamic among employees should they prefer to get a solid 7 hours of sleep themselves. The boss is likewise showing a lack of concern about his or her health. Sleep leadership should educate employees about the importance of a good night’s sleep and showing concern about their sleep quality. A good sleep leader can consider greeting his employees in the morning with a question, “How did you sleep?”

The second policy mentioned by Oregon University researchers is the expectation that employees are available 24/7. As the world now continues to fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, workers are encouraged to work from home. Yet, along with this new work setup is the necessity of making your home also your workplace. Bosses may find no reason why workers cannot be available when they have to pitch in on a project.



The Family Supportive Supervisor Behaviors (FSSB)

The Family Supportive Supervisor Behaviors (FSSB), which are behaviors exhibited by supervisors that are supportive of employees’ family roles, are an important link in the work and family support and can counteract the mentality of expecting workers to be available 24/7. Family-supportive supervisors are those who empathize with their employees’ attempts to balance work and nonwork demands.

The Oregon researchers said that it will be easier for workers to juggle family and work demands when they have family-supportive supervisors. With increased time management, employees can go to bed on time, have a regular bedtime routine, or can even sleep longer. The study authors gathered 180 workers and their 91 supervisors. These subjects are from personnel providing support to the northwestern US Army National Guard. The workers are between 20 to 57 years old, 36 as the median age, and are working in regular daytime shifts. About 86% of them were required to attend drills on weekends as part of maintaining an active military status. As of their supervisors, they were only a few years older and also maintain an active military status just like their employees.

The two groups of participants completed measures that assessed the components of the WSN model. Supervisors rate themselves to describe their sleep leadership behavior. Some questions involve whether they ask their subordinates about their sleep habits or not. On the other hand, employees rated their boss on a comparable question. Researchers further asked study participants to determine their comfort levels in discussing conflicts between nonwork and work responsibilities. Their answers help the team assess the FSSBs.

For more than 21 days, employees’ actual sleep patterns were recorded through the sleep monitoring devices they wore. To complement the result, employees likewise rated their sleep hygiene and subjective sleep quality. Sleep hygiene questions involve whether they go to bed at different times from day to day while subjective sleep quality questions include whether their sleep was restless or not. The employees were also asked to rate their sleep-related impairments in daily functioning, such as they have a hard time getting things done during the day because they feel sleepy.

Results show that employees who rated their supervisors more favorably on the FFSB slept shorter hours every night compared to what their sleep monitoring devices recorded. Sianoj and colleagues believe that the result is potentially reflecting the influence of other factors that are not measured in terms of sleep length. It may also be possible that the wearable tech that monitors the number of hours employees sleep was not as accurate as they are supposed to be.  For example, even if the worker feels sleepless at night, the tech won’t still record it.

The FSSB scores reported by supervisors were linked to less sleep disruption by their employees and higher self-rated sleep hygiene. This means that even if employees may not have slept more hours despite having supervisors that are supportive of their nonwork obligations, they still felt less impaired in their waking lives and were able to sleep on more regular schedules.

Workplace fatigue and daytime sleepiness: statistics

According to the National Safety Council, two-thirds (107 million) of the US labor force is affected by occupational fatigue. Employees working irregular shifts are more vulnerable to developing occupational fatigue because their body clocks cannot adapt to the changing sleep schedule. In other statistics provided by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, workers with sleep problems are 1.62 times more likely to get injured than workers with no sleep issues.



Seventy percent of tech workers admitted to sleeping during work hours or spend more than 11% of their workday sleeping. Other industries that had the highest percentage of workers who reported sleeping on the job are the construction (68.2%), government and public administration (63.5%), finance and insurance (58.9%), information services and data processing (58%), and manufacturing (52.6%). Arizona-based mattress company Amerisleep conducted the survey.

An unhealthy work environment represented by the unsympathetic employer toward the pressures that employees feel due to nonwork commitments can interfere with how well the latter can maintain their regular bedtime. We can all turn this knowledge into sustained behavior. For leaders, they should make sleep a priority so they can inspire better work in their employees.