There’s no question that getting a good night’s sleep makes us feel great, physically and mentally. But at least eight hours of sleep each night is also key to building emotional intelligence.
In her article “How Sleep Primes the Brain for Emotional Intelligence,” professional life coach Sarah Kivel describes three ways sleeps helps build emotional intelligence:
Sleep helps us manage our emotions. Lack of sleep can cause people to be “grumpy,” Kivel says. “Parents of young children experience this all the time. We see it in the workplace when an ‘angry’ leader might snap at and lose patience with a subordinate. A sleep deprived doctor can come across as impatient and have poor bedside manners.This is not an effective way to build strong relationships and improve connections. Managing ourselves and having emotional self-control is a key competency for building emotional intelligence.”
Sleep builds empathy. “There are regions of the brain whose job is to read and decode the meaning of emotional signals, especially in faces,” Kivel explains. “It is these regions of the brain that REM sleep recalibrates at night. When we deprive ourselves of this dream state REM sleep, facial expressions become distorted, causing us to confuse a friendly expression with anger or frustration. Our ability to recognize different emotions through facial expressions is one way that we develop empathy. Facial expressions communicate the emotions and intent of another person. Our response can be influenced by the expressions of another.”
Sleep sparks creativity.“Being able to handle change and adapt to new situations with fresh ideas or innovative approaches is another key competency in building emotional intelligence,” says Kivel. “This is especially true after a full night of rich dream state REM sleep. One study showed problem solving abilities increased by 15 to 35 percent. A full night of dream-induced REM sleep also revealed an ease in problem solving. When we are in our dream state, our mind can process a wide range of stored information and come up with multiple solutions for complicated problems.”