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How are you Sleeping? Leadership Support, Sleep Health, and Work-Relevant Outcomes

Abstract

Employee sleep matters for organizations, but it is less clear what organizations can do to promote sleep health. One potential leverage point is leaders. At present, we know relatively little about the ways leaders might support employees’ sleep health. The current research builds and tests theory suggesting that when organizational leaders display sleep-specific consideration behaviors (which the literature terms “sleep leadership”), employees exhibit positive, subsequent changes in sleep at home as well as goal pursuit and impulse control (loosely indicative of self-regulation) at work. A time-lagged, field-based study of U.S. Army soldiers supports this prediction and shows that sleep health mediates the link between sleep leadership and the two outcomes indicative of self-regulation. These findings suggest that leaders who demonstrate concern about employee sleep may initiate a positive feedback loop spanning work and home, benefiting the employee and organization.

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Data Availability

The data and material from our study are not publicly available due to restrictions related to human participant protection requirements within the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, but can be made available upon request.

Code availability

Not applicable.

Notes

  1. Domain-specific leadership has also been conceptualized as a form of transformational leadership. Our conceptual framework builds from work placing particular emphasis on the consideration components of domain-specific leadership (e.g., Mullen & Kelloway, 2009).

  2. Valente and MacKinnon describe a design where the predictor is random assignment to condition. In contrast, we apply their ANCOVA model to describe changes associated with perceived differences in sleep leadership as the predictor. Given our lack of random assignment, we cannot draw strong causal claims.

  3. A full writeup of this study and its results are available on request.

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Acknowledgements

The authors wish to thank Maurice Sipos and Jeffrey Thomas for their support of this research.

Funding

Our study was funded by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.

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Correspondence to Brian C. Gunia.

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Appendices

Appendix

Sleep Leadership Scale

T1 Sleep Leadership Scale

For the following statements, complete the answer that best describes your opinion of what is generally true for YOUR IMMEDIATE SUPERVISORS using the scale provided (1 = never to 5 = always):

  1. 1.

    Ask Soldiers about their sleeping habits

  2. 2.

    Encourage Soldiers to get adequate sleep

  3. 3.

    Plan unit schedule/operations so that Soldiers have time to get adequate sleep

  4. 4.

    Encourage Soldiers to nap when possible

  5. 5.

    Encourage Soldiers to get extra sleep before missions that require long hours

  6. 6.

    Work to ensure Soldiers have a good sleep environment (quiet, dark, not too hot or cold)

  7. 7.

    Support the appropriate use of prescription/sleep medications (like Ambien) when Soldiers need help with sleeping

  8. 8.

    Discourage the use of caffeine or nicotine use within several hours before trying to go to sleep

  9. 9.

    Encourage Soldiers to try to go to sleep on time

  10. 10.

    Encourage Soldiers to reduce sleep distractions by using earplugs, eye-masks or other strategies

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Gunia, B.C., Adler, A.B., Bliese, P.D. et al. How are you Sleeping? Leadership Support, Sleep Health, and Work-Relevant Outcomes. Occup Health Sci 5, 563–580 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41542-021-00100-w

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s41542-021-00100-w

Keywords

  • Supervisory support
  • Domain-specific leadership
  • Sleep leadership
  • Sleep
  • Self-regulation