Sleep your way to the top

Now this week’s title must have made you a least a little curious. I have to admit, thinking up catchy titles for my posts – titles that will actually make people curious enough to click through to my blog – isn’t always my strong suit. So I’m especially pleased with this one. Although before you get too excited I have to confess that this blog post is not about sex. It’s about sleep, among other things.

I saw a video clip of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In interview with Arianna Huffington the other day, and ‘sleep your way to the top’ are Huffington’s words. According to Huffington we all sleep too little due to the constant pressure and need to be efficient. However, and the experts all agree on this, a lack sleep does not lead to efficiency. Sacrificing sleep in the name of productivity actually makes us less productive. So if you really want to succeed – if you want to make it to the top – you really need to get enough sleep.

Another thing Huffington brings up is that organizational culture is designed by men and fueled by burnout. Well, I’m very familiar with the concept of masculinist career models and working cultures. It’s true, prevalent career models have been designed by men for men. Whether they represent how all men want to work is a different question, but this is fact. However the idea that it is fueled by burnout was a new thought for me, and a very disturbing one at that. I know working culture can be extreme, and I know that in this day and age the ever more hectic pace and financial uncertainty take their toll. In fact according to the Kelly Global Workforce Index about half (!) of the world’s workforce is reportedly unhappy, mainly due to downsizing and uncertainty, and according to the Harvard Business Review middle managers are among the most unhappy. So I guess it should come as no surprise that also burnout is a real problem.

Huffington goes on to explain that because of this, sleep is a feminist issue and that it is women who need to lean in and reach top positions in greater numbers so that they can change working culture from the inside. So instead of opting out, according to Huffington at least, women need to stick around, gather in greater numbers, and change the environment.

That’s good, I do agree. Corporate life needs to change and we need to change it. I’m unsure of whether women alone can change it however. Women so quickly get assimilated by the culture and need to adopt masculinist norms and ideals in order to make it to the top, and because of this women aren’t necessarily good role models for other women. And the reason women don’t help each other enough as much as you’d hope may also be related to this. In part it’s due to a fear of being stigmatized in an environment where women constantly need to prove themselves worthy.

But either way, I don’t think this is only a women’s issue. I think both women and men need to and will change corporate culture together. Masculinist work cultures don’t suit all men either and like many including me argue again and again, they just haven’t kept up with the times. So yes, it’s a feminist issue, it’s a women’s issue, and it’s also a men’s issue. It’s a question of wellbeing.

But just the thought of whole societies sleepwalking through life is simply horrific. Let’s get more sleep people! Let’s sleep our way to the top. Or wherever it is you want to go.

P.S. Watch the video clip. Huffington says some very wise things about napping too. As a matter of fact, I think I might just take a nap myself.

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