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How To Succeed In Product Management | Jeffrey Shulman, Red Russak & Soumeya Benghanem

88: How Sleep Affects Leadership & Creativity + How to Sleep Better

Wed Jun 07 2023
SleepWorkLeadershipDecision MakingWorkload ManagementSleep DisordersTreatment ProgramsCircadian Rhythms


The episode explores the relationship between sleep and work, focusing on the impact of sleep on leadership, decision making, and workload management. It discusses the importance of sleep for creativity, relationships, and overall health. The episode also highlights common sleep disorders and effective treatments. Additionally, it addresses the role of circadian rhythms in work schedules and offers strategies for optimizing productivity while considering individual sleep needs.


Sleep is crucial for effective leadership

Sleep deprivation can negatively impact leadership behavior, relationships with subordinates, and charisma.

Sleep enhances decision making and creativity

Sleeping on a problem can lead to creative insights, and sleep deprivation impairs decision-making abilities.

Balancing workload and sleep is essential

Finding a sustainable balance between work and sleep is crucial for productivity, avoiding mistakes, and maintaining overall health.

Common sleep disorders affect workplace performance

Insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea are prevalent sleep disorders that can significantly impact job satisfaction and engagement.

Investing in sleep treatment programs benefits employees and organizations

Treating sleep disorders improves mood, self-control, job satisfaction, and overall performance, leading to a high return on investment.

Individual sleep needs should be considered in work schedules

Aligning work schedules with individual circadian rhythms can optimize productivity and well-being.

Flexibility is key for global teams with different time zones

Global teams should share the burden of working outside regular hours to accommodate members across different continents.


  1. Introduction
  2. The Impact of Sleep on Work
  3. Sleep and Decision Making
  4. Sleep and Leadership
  5. Workload and Sleep Management


00:00 - 06:20

  • The Product Management Center at the University of Washington offers a 12-week online program called the Inclusive Product Management Accelerator, sponsored by T-Mobile and Starbucks.
  • The inclusive product management accelerator cohort for fall 2023 is accepting applications from June 8th to June 20th.
  • Kara is the associate director of the Product Management Center and will be guest hosting while Jeff is away.

The Impact of Sleep on Work

06:07 - 19:01

  • Chris Barnes, a professor of organizational behavior at the University of Washington, specializes in researching the relationship between sleep and work.
  • Chris Barnes' interest in sleep research began during his time in the United States Air Force, where he worked on managing fatigue during long missions.
  • There is limited existing literature on sleep's impact on management and leadership, which inspired Chris to focus his research on this topic.
  • Product managers need to influence without authority and bring stakeholders together for success.
  • Even small amounts of lost sleep can have meaningful effects on workplace outcomes like injuries and cyber loafing.
  • A leader's lack of sleep can negatively impact their interactions with others in the workplace.
  • Sleep deprivation can lead to surface-level processing and a failure to identify flaws in opportunities.
  • Sleep deprivation leads to a gap in the quality of relationships between leaders and others
  • Charismatic leaders are less likely to express positive emotions when sleep deprived
  • Sleep deprivation makes it harder to inspire others
  • Sleep deprivation undermines leadership in three specific ways

Sleep and Decision Making

12:10 - 19:01

  • Sleeping on a difficult problem can lead to creative insights.
  • Research shows that people who sleep between the presentation of a problem and their solution are more likely to reach a creative insight compared to those who don't sleep.
  • Creativity draws disproportionately from the prefrontal cortex, which is negatively affected by sleep deprivation.
  • For important decisions or complex problem-solving, it's beneficial to sleep on it and come back with fresh insights.
  • The urgency of a situation should be evaluated before deciding whether to solve it immediately or take time to think and sleep on it.

Sleep and Leadership

18:36 - 25:04

  • Sleep deprivation can lead to abusive behavior in leadership roles, resulting in less engagement from subordinates.
  • Both leaders and subordinates may not be aware of how their own sleep affects the quality of their relationship with each other.
  • Charisma, especially relevant for product managers who need to influence others without direct authority, can be impacted by sleep deprivation.

Workload and Sleep Management

24:49 - 53:38

  • Engage the audience and encourage questions
  • Importance of sleep and its impact on health
  • Finding a sustainable level of work and sleep
  • Asking if current workload is sustainable
  • Trade-off between quantity and quality of work
  • Monitoring the trade-off to avoid mistakes and missed opportunities
  • Negotiating workload with bosses
  • Pressure in product management to ship features quickly
  • Tension between moving forward and ensuring it's in the right direction
  • Building the wrong thing is more costly than waiting to build the right thing.
  • There is a tension between moving quickly and ensuring you're moving in the right direction.
  • Sleep is important for both your body and your business.
  • Some people believe they are less vulnerable to sleep deprivation, but this is rare and varies across different tasks.
  • Many people underestimate the negative effects of insufficient sleep on their health and workplace performance.
  • Insomnia is a prevalent sleep disorder characterized by difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night.
  • Obstructive sleep apnea is another common sleep disorder where the airway closes off during sleep, leading to disrupted breathing and altered sleep architecture.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia and continuous positive airway pressure devices are effective treatments for these disorders.
  • Treating sleep disorders can improve mood, self-control, job satisfaction, work engagement, and overall health.
  • Investing in treatment programs for employees with sleep disorders can lead to better employee performance and return on investment.
  • Some treatment programs for sleep disorders are affordable, such as cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia which costs around $300 per person.
  • Investing in employees' sleep improvement can lead to better performance and a high return on investment.
  • Sleep disorders are often underinformed, both in terms of types and prevalence, as well as their treatability.
  • CPAP machines are now being used by younger individuals focused on health and well-being.
  • The impact of snoring on a partner's creativity and leadership effectiveness is being studied.
  • Sleep divorce, where partners sleep in separate areas to avoid disruptions caused by snoring, is one solution to consider.
  • There are multiple phases of treatment for sleep disorders, with CPAP devices being the most effective but not suitable for everyone.
  • Alternative treatments include mouth guards, surgeries to reshape airways, and didgeridoo training regimen to exercise airway muscles.
  • Working with a sleep medicine professional can help find the right treatment fit for each individual.
  • Finding the right fit for sleep treatment is important as everyone's body and experiences are different.
  • Most people can find the right fit and experience positive movement in their sleep and overall health.
  • Ask your primary care doctor or network for recommendations on sleep treatments.
  • Primary care providers often have minimal training in detecting and treating sleep disorders, so they may not be able to solve your sleep issues directly.
  • Circadian rhythms play a role in determining whether someone is a lark (wakes up early) or an owl (stays up late).
  • Forcing someone to work against their natural circadian rhythm can lead to negative outcomes, such as decreased self-control and unethical behavior.
  • Flex time can be a helpful tool for aligning work schedules with individual circadian rhythms.
  • Teams with members of different chronotypes face challenges in finding optimal working hours, but compromises can be made by identifying important activities and making some tasks asynchronous.
  • Global teams with members across different continents may need to share the burden of working outside regular hours more equally.