If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.
– John Quincy Adams

The word inspiration can be defined as: a divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify him or her to receive and communicate sacred revelation, the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions, or the act of influencing or suggesting opinions.

InnerWill’s newest series, Inspired By, is dedicated to honoring the people and practices that have uplifted and influenced us into who we are and what we do every single day.

Recently, my mind has been replaying a TED Talk that I saw Arianna Huffington give at an event back in 2010.

The talk was about sleep being the unequivocal factor in a successful, happy life. I remember at the time thinking, DUH. I’ve had the “early to bed, early to rise ” mantra beaten into my head since I was a kid. But also, WHO HAS TIME TO SLEEP WHEN THERE IS SO MUCH LIVING TO BE DONE?? Sleep can be easy to ignore, even for those who aren’t Type A personalities.

Fast forward to about six months ago when I welcomed my daughter, my first child, into the world while around the same time accepting an exciting new job – perhaps the first sign of serious sleep deprivation?? In all seriousness, I have been struck by how much more affected I feel by a lack of sleep when it’s not of my own volition.

Want to get up a few hours early to get a morning work-out in and catch up on emails to get a leg-up on the day ahead? Good luck, chances are you’ve already been up for hours feeding a baby and trying to remember the last time you let the poor dogs out.

Now Ms. Huffington’s words are haunting me! Now I’m proselytizing the benefits of this simple, necessary life function.

Sleep can, and does, make us better leaders (and better colleagues, friends, parents, and citizens for that matter). In fact, experts like Christopher Barnes, an associate professor of management at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business, agrees that “leaders and their teams are typically going to be better served by a good night of sleep than by working so much that they crowd out sleep.” And from Jessica Payne, associate professor and director of the Sleep Stress and Memory Lab at the University of Notre Dame, “social ability and emotional stability are linked to sleep, and a sleep deficit can be a huge problem for leadership.”

Have you ever seen a sleep deprived, irritable, individual try to inspire a room full of eager employees who are being challenged to find an innovative solution to an urgent problem? Yeah, neither have I.

Sometimes we need to look no further than the processes taking place inside our very own bodies for inspiration. After fighting it for all of these years, I’m humbled and inspired by the power of sleep. Let’s encourage behaviors that help us get a good night’s sleep – from creating blackout time on email, to predictable time off, and smart technology that improves sleep management. And don’t forget all you work-a-holics out there — your mind is surprisingly busy while you snooze. You’ll be surprised at just how much you can accomplish when you close your eyes and take a few beats.


Betsey Fortlouis

Betsey Fortlouis

Betsey has dedicated over 15 years of her career to driving awareness, support, and funding to nonprofits of all sizes. She is passionate about relationship building and believes that scalability and sustainability are at the center of an organization’s success. As our Director of Development and Partnerships, she is responsible for building partnerships and fostering connections with individuals, foundations, and corporations to advance InnerWill’s mission.

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