What neuroscientists know is that while some brain areas could do relatively well with few sleeping hours, the prefrontal cortex suffers severely without sufficient rest. This frontal part of the brain cortex is responsible for what is called executive functioning. This term encompasses, for example, problem solving, planning, decision-making, justification of decisions made and executing operations.
A recent McKinsey research revealed a striking positive correlation between good sleep and effective leadership in all four key behaviours of good leaders.
Operating with results-orientation is improved through better sleep because it is important to stay focused and to avoid distractions in order to perform tasks efficiently.
Effective problem-solving is improved because sleep boosts cognitive functions that help us make links and see the bigger picture.
Viewing the problem from multiple perspectives is improved because sleep keeps our brain sharp to enhance critical thinking.
Supporting others is improved because we can show empathy only when we are in a good physical condition.
It seems that the study grants some validity to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as well. Only when basic needs are met, for example, thirst, hunger and sleep, can we think of higher ends like being effective leaders and supportive team members.