Sleep Deprived Talent are Grumpy Talent

“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 hours ((Hewlett, A. & Luce, C. (2006). Extreme jobs. The dangerous allure of the 70-hour workweek. Harvard Business Review, December 2006, pp. 1-12)). 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 deprivation ((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)).

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]


Does Personality Change?

“From birth to age 18, a girl needs good parents, from 18 to 35 she needs good looks, from 35 to 55 she needs a good personality, and from 55 on she needs cash.”

Sophie Tucker


Despite increasing evidence that most personality traits are highly genetically determined (current estimates suggest as much as 50%) much of personality is flexible within our “set point” ranges and that it changes over our life span shaped by our experiences.

Recent longitudinal and cross-sectional aging research has shown that personality traits continue to change in adulthood ((Roberts, B. et al. (2008). Personality trait change in adulthood. Current directions in Psychological Science, 17, 1, 31-35)). Change in personality traits occurs in middle and old age, showing that personality traits can change at any age. Research by Brent Roberts, Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychology at the University of Illinois, summarizing over 100 studies of personality suggests that most people become more confident, warm (agreeable), responsible (conscientious), and emotionally stable as they age, especially in young adulthood (ages 20 to 40).

Although there is much debate about genetic “set points” for personality, we can change significantly according to new research from Carol Dweck and her colleagues at Stanford University. Dweck’s research suggests that people either have fixed beliefs about their personality (it can’t be really modified) or they have a malleable set of beliefs that it can be developed through efforts and education. Adults (and children) with a malleable viewpoint are more open to learning new things, confront new challenges, stick with tough tasks and demonstrate greater resilience.

Her research suggests that this orientation is trainable and can result in greater performance and other personality related changes (e.g., increased openness to new experiences and sociability). She suggests that by emphasizing and praising traits (e.g, intelligence) we are reinforcing a fixed perspective and that we should really recognize effort or strategies. Today parents seem upset if their kids come in 6th place in any competition and don’t receive a trophy–maybe they are on to something here!

Even our level of happiness can be changed despite evidence that at least 50% of our happiness is genetically programmed. For example, Ed Diener and his colleagues analyzed data from a 15 year study on marriage transitions and life satisfaction ((Lucus, R., et al. (2003). Reexamining adaptation and the happiness: Reactions to changes in marital status. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 527-539)). On average, most people moved toward their baseline level of happiness but interestingly a large number remained at their baseline and others stayed below it.

In our own research on happiness with individuals with the auto-immune disease multiple sclerosis (MS) we have seen significant positive changes in work and life satisfaction ((Giesser, B., Coleman, L., Fisher, S., Guttry, M., Herlihy, E., Nonoguch, S., Nowack, D., Roberts, C. & Nowack, K. (2007). Living Well with Multiple Sclerosis: Lessons Learned from a 12-Week Community Based Quality of Life Program. Paper presented at 17th Annual Art & Science of Conference, March, 2007, San Francisco, CA )). We have explored how a comprehensive 12-week “MS Living Well” program that meets for 4 hours over 12 consecutive weeks can modify well-being using our own stress and health risk assessment called StressScan. We use one scale in particular which is called “Psychological Well-Being” and is a global measure of life satisfaction or happiness (it includes aspects of positive affect, engagement and meaning). We have also replicated this finding with an online version of this program that also demonstrated a significant increase in happiness over the same 12-week period ((Giesser, B., Coleman, L., Fisher, S. Guttry,M., Herlihy, E., Nonoguchi, S., Nowack, D., Roberts, C, & Nowack, K. (2010). Living Well with Multiple Sclerosis: Comparisons of a 12-Week Blended Learning Versus Direct Classroom Program)).

It would appear from all the current research that our beliefs about ourselves can change and so can our personality. However, it remains seen just how much change in basic personality occurs over time.

Most of my executive coaching assignments with “competent jerks” seem to result in little or no personality modification or behavior change. Following up later it seems that if my old clients “derail” entirely or get fired they tend to become a bit more mellow and reflective. I’m guessing that it’s the kind of experiences that shape our personality more than others.

If only we really could figure out the kind of developmental experiences that truly enhance resilience, growth and development in both children and adults.

Unfortunately, it’s more art than science right now…..Be well….

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