As coaching professionals, we are always looking for ways to enhance the process of helping others uncover their personal potential. We strive to expand the possibilities through visual coaching, body-connected coaching and mindfulness among other methodologies And yet, we may be overlooking a powerful way to increase the capacity to think clearly and consider multiple perspectives. It’s sleep.
How well are you sleeping? How well is the client sleeping? Recently, I attended a seminar called The Ever-Changing Brain. I was struck by the impact of sleep deprivation on every aspect of our lives. The presenter, John Preston, Psy.D. wasn’t talking about just doing time in our bed. He was talking about the deeply restorative type of sleep that affects our ability to regulate our emotions, solve problems, and go through our day with energy. What happens to willpower when fatigue is present?
It isn’t the number of hours spent in our bed either. Researchers say we need 7-9 hours but the quality of sleep is critical. Apparently, slow wave sleep is the type of sleep that we need. If we don’t get quality sleep, we experience an increase in irritability and lack of focus. Cognition and problem solving is reduced. Pain thresholds decrease. Extended sleep deprivation can result in depression.
Here are some factors that adversely affect deep, restorative sleep: Caffeine, alcohol, late nights with a bright computer screen, tranquilizers and some sleeping pills. A hot room can also interfere with slow wave sleep. Sleep apnea, which is another topic altogether, is probably the biggest enemy of restorative sleep.
So what can you do to enhance sleep? Dr. Preston had these suggestions:
1. Get regular exercise (but not before bed!)
2. Avoid computer screens and other bright sources of light at least an hour before bed.
3. Sleep cool.
4. Calm evenings.
5. Avoid substances that interfere with slow wave sleep (as above).
So next time you have a client who feels frustrated, stuck or overwhelmed, you might just inquire how they are sleeping. It might be one of the single most powerful ways you can enhance the coaching outcome.
Ann C. Holm
Written for my column, “Mind Matters” in The Catalyst at MN-ICF.