Have you ever heard of the 2015 research study into the most important habit that will improve your health, wealth, relationships and overall life?
It’s a big claim, but stick with me. The findings were kind of obvious when you think about it.
The study was carried out at the Tel Aviv University and compared people’s emotional intelligence after a good night of sleep follow by a night without sleep. They used MRI scans to look at the part of the brain that regulates our emotions and anxiety levels.
The researchers found that just one night of sleeplessness changes your ability to regulate emotions and allocate brain resources necessary for objective cognitive processing.
“It turns out we lose our neutrality. The ability of the brain to tell what’s important is compromised. It’s as if suddenly everything is important,” said Professor Talma Hendler who led the study.
In short, sleep is the most important habit to improve our levels of emotional intelligence, mental resilience and indeed our very sanity.
Sleep deprivation makes it difficult to read facial expressions
There is additional research supporting the point that sleep helps to improve your emotional intelligence.
A UC Berkeley study shows that sleep deprivation dulls our ability to accurately read facial expressions. This can have serious consequences, such as not noticing that a child is in pain, or that a violent predator is approaching.
“Recognizing the emotional expressions of someone else changes everything about whether or not you decide to interact with them, and in return, whether they interact with you,” said study senior author Matthew Walker, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at UC Berkeley.
Just take that in for a moment.
So after many nights of only a few hours’ sleep, we might not realize that someone in the same room is in pain or stressed; a mother might not realize that her child is not looking for attention but is seriously ill.
Sleep will improve your emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence, as popularized by American psychologist Daniel Goleman, has traditionally been espoused as crucial to effective leadership.
There are countless books, workshops and coaching available for people who want to improve their emotional intelligence. Yet when you consider the research findings around emotional intelligence and sleep, it’s clear that getting more sleep is probably the single most effective habit to cultivate to navigate our increasingly complex lives.
Here are the key components of emotional intelligence:
- Self-awareness – the ability to recognize and understand our own emotions and reactions
- Self-management – the ability to control, and adapt our emotions, mood, and responses
- Motivation – our ability to harness our emotions to motivate ourselves to take appropriate action, commit, follow-through, and work toward the achievement of our goals
- Empathy – our ability to discern the feelings of those we interact with, understand their emotions, and use this understanding to relate to them more effectively
- Social skills – our ability to build relationships and relate to others in social situations
It’s easy to see that if you lack self-awareness, you’re in trouble. Ditto for an inability to control your emotions or reactions (think temper outbursts) and where would you be if you can’t motivate yourself to go to work even though you hate your boss? What would our personal relationships look like without empathy?
We can’t afford to let ourselves become sleep deprived. Sleep deprivation is a known torture tool to break resistance down, we know it, but we still indulge in late nights and early morning scrambles and face our days not properly rested.