Female leaders are unique. Besides fighting male dominance in their ascent to the top, female leaders, while shouldering more than their share of family responsibilities, unfortunately, also have to fight insufficient deep sleep during premenstrual syndrome, menstruation, pregnancy, lactation, menopause, and even after menopause. If you add inadequate sleep hygiene to the list, what you get is severely suboptimal leadership. So it is of paramount importance that female leaders follow sleep hygiene with fervor and fanaticism. We will describe several useful interventions that can help female leaders improve their sleep during these unique times. And, as always, learning about these deficits and being aware of them is half the battle.
Half of menstruating women complain of disrupted sleep for three days each menstrual cycle according to the National Sleep Foundation’s women and sleep poll. For female leaders suffering from premenstrual syndrome, sleep disruption and the resultant drop in daytime alertness are even worse. Also, progesterone hormone, which peaks in the second half of the menstrual cycle, exacerbates fatigue and excessive daytime sleepiness. These recurring challenges can take a toll on leadership and the life of our female leaders.
The following tips can help. Remember that, if you master these interventions, you get recurring return on your investment month after month throughout your career.
• Follow sleep hygiene with a fervor. Mother Nature is not helping you, so you will have to help yourself. Maintain regular sleep-wake schedule, avoid alcohol within 6 hours of bedtime, keep work related material out of bedroom, and keep your bedroom cool, quiet, and dark.
• Remember that exercise will help you fight PMS symptoms and improve your REM sleep too.
• Gradually taper caffeine off completely. Besides disrupting your deep sleep, caffeine contributes to premenstrual bloating.
• Drink more during the daytime. Drink plenty of fluid all day, but stop drinking in the evening to avoid nocturnal urination.
• Avoid the it-is-just-PMS attitude. Take your PMS seriously, and consult your physician to reduce PMS symptoms of bloating, breast tenderness, back pain, cramping, irritability, nervousness, and grumpiness.
• Schedule lightly. You may argue that this is not always possible, but, with proper planning, you might be able achieve this. Try to squeeze in a PREM(Patel’s REM) nap in your busy schedule if you can.
• Do not let pride prevent you from seeking support. You know you are fighting Mother Nature, but no one else does because you cannot share this with your male colleagues. But this should not prevent you from seeking support from your female colleagues and, for sure, your family members.
• Learn mindful meditation. This will help you deal with untoward emotions. It will also treat that feeling of powerlessness that you as a leader hate. To learn mindful meditation, you can watch this simple and useful video by Jim Malloy of http://www.meditationcenter.com.
Run, Sleep, Lead.