Cup of coffee (suggesting wakefulness) and computer keybaord on desk

Project Leaders Must Stay Mentally Sharp

Aug 30, 2021

When airline pilots overfly the airport by 100 miles, it is a big deal... And when air traffic controllers nod off in the tower it makes international news.

What about when YOU are a little groggy from 8-11 every day?  After all, our society lives on coffee and Five-Hour energy drinks and isn’t everyone somewhat fog-brained every day?  No, they are not.  And you cannot afford to be either.

Relaunching our CONOPS training-and-building business is requiring long hours but Cindy and I are being sure to get enough sleep.  This includes 45 minute, daytime naps as needed!  You cannot be a Project Leader (and man, is this business relaunch a major project!) if you cannot think clearly.

Your organization hired you to THINK and you cannot do that when chronically tired.

The brain not only performs poorly at key tasks when deeply fatigued, it also makes-up things, twisting things you experience and inventing entirely new things.

And parts of your brain cannot differentiate between things imagined and things experienced! So that means you can “see” things happen that didn’t actually happen at all, but you will swear they did.

Years ago, while driving a truck across Texas, in the wee hours of the morning on a deserted road I suddenly saw an infant sitting in the center of my lane. I locked-up the brakes (which panicked the other driver dozing in the passenger’s seat) but the truck slid right over that child.

We jumped out of the truck and looked behind the truck to see . . . nothing. In the Texas moonlight there was nothing there but my skid marks. We looked everywhere, ditches, the truck undercarriage, everywhere.  Nothing. 

Not even any blood.  Conclusion? In my fatigue I had imagined the entire thing. And man, was I tired that night but I can assure you that I was “awake” for an hour or so after that episode, heart 
thumping and hands shaking. 

Even for a few hours at the motel where we stopped shortly after this episode. 
But the effect was short lived - - - after the slug of adrenalin had been metabolized, which caused me a little trouble going to sleep, when I did drift off, I slept for about 12 hours.

I have been in business meetings where one person on my team heard one thing and everyone else heard something entirely different. in one case, the odd-man-out was known to be grouchy, irritable and he was very overweight.

In retrospect, I would bet he had sleep 
apnea and was sleeping poorly. I predict a time, within 5 years, when sleep apnea is seen as the productivity-robber that it is and is therefore proactively diagnosed and treated.

Today, sleepy driving is seen as an annoyance to be treated with energy drinks. (This is in spite of evidence that driving while fatigued (DWF) has been shown to impair decision making and motor skills even more than 3-4 stiff alcoholic drinks!)

The root cause of most sleepy driving is sleep apnea where the throat closes and the person never enters deep sleep.

Sleep apnea sufferers typically do not know they have the disease (although their sleep partners know they snore and sometimes choke or gasp) and so they never get treated for it.

Untreated, it can damage your heart or cause a stroke!  It truly is a silent killer and it strikes people of any age and any body type (even those of us with low BMIs)!   Treatments range from simple mouth appliances that hold the lower jaw forward during sleep, to muscle-stimulators surgically embedded in the throat, to CPAP machines that force air into the lungs, and then the ultimate - - - UPPP surgery to remove/stiffen the soft palate and throat tissues so they don’t flop around in there. 

It is at epidemic levels in the USA and new treatments are emerging each year.

The bottom line is this: if you are not well rested at work, you cannot make optimum decisions so your bosses will begin to question your judgment. You may also be irritable and/or short tempered and your coworkers may start to avoid you. All this is bad.

Fatigue will impact your career. If you find that you MUST drink caffeinated coffee throughout the morning “just to function” , or if your sleep partner says you snore or gasp or choke, or if you don’t wake up bright-eyed and ready to take on the world, you have a problem: you are either not getting enough sleep (quantity) or you are getting poor sleep (quality).  Or both.

10 mg of melatonin nightly really helps Cindy and me sleep.  Try to get at least 7-8 hours each night for a week and if you are still tired, see a sleep clinic about a sleep study. It requires just one night, a nurse monitors your sleep, and it can save your life because undiagnosed sleep apnea can give you coronary disease in just a few years!

And long before that, it will have destroyed your career.
Check our blogs here for one about Life-Work Balance in the COVID Era.


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