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Dr David Lee on Sleep: How Much? When? & How to Create High Performance

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Business Mastermind Podcast

The Business Mastermind Podcast is for business owners and leaders in small to medium-sized businesses. If you are running a business with revenue  
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In this episode Gavin talks to psychiatrist Dr David Lee on the relevance of quality sleep to the operation of business. The importance of sleep is widely acknowledged currently so Gavin and Dr Lee talk about  ways to improve your sleep pattern to best support you during your work day. They have a fascinating discussion on  the biology and psychology of sleep, the effects of deprivation and over sleeping and the importance of routine. 


  • Dr Lee has seen sleep problems double since the beginning of the lockdown due to anxiety, work life balance from home working being disrupted and routine changes. These present as problems going to sleep, problems staying asleep or waking up too early. Executives have problems turning off their thought processes to relax and tend to be older so often suffer from broken sleep. An easy fix can often be not drinking as much in the evening to cut down on being woken up repeatedly by bladder urges. Find other ways of relaxing other than alcohol.
  • The often repeated adage of requiring 8 hours of sleep is a myth. Most adults require between 6 and 9  hours. People will intuitively know if the are a “lark” or an “owl” so you should consider allowing work around this requirement especially when it involves shift work.
  • Anything that is a stimulant, i.e. blue screen work, alcohol, caffeine, exercise etc should be avoided in the few hours before sleep. You could you mindfulness or meditation techniques can assist with this wind down time. Usually Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia (CBTI) is recommended by the NHS which capitalises on these positive behaviours for sleep while discouraging negative habits which block sleep. Sleeping tablets are limited to 3 months use as they are habit forming.
  • Power naps can be useful in extreme situations for achieving your required sleep but they are not ideal as we seem to function more efficiently with solid blocks of rest. Napping is useful for children below 3 years of age, older people with dementia and brain injury patients but not so useful for busy executives. If you feel you need to nap during the day this means you’re probably not achieving quality sleep at night. 
  • Exposure to daylight builds up melatonin on your pineal gland. When the light fades this is released making you feel sleepy. This is why a day out on a bright day can often seem tiring. Go outside on your lunch break and get yourself some melatonin! 
  • Electronic gadgets like fitbits and sleep apps tend to provide false information to you and mess with your sleep pattern. They make your quest for sleep pressured when it should be left alone and relaxed.



‘We cycle between REM and non REM sleep perhaps four or five times during a night. Alcohol will knock off the REM sleep and the deep non REM sleep so we spend more time in light non REM sleep which isn’t that helpful for us.’

‘Really important to have a good routine, one that works for you if you’re “larky” or “owly” and then stick to it.’

‘It’s about doing a decent assessment at the beginning of it to chose the different tools within the CBTI toolkit according to what that person is going to need.’

‘One night of sleep deprivation is thought to be the equivalent of 8 pints of beer.’

‘In order to be really functional you need to get the right amount for you every night regardless of what else is going on.’

‘Good sleep requires…nothing. The more help you try and give it the more it runs away from you.’


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Dr David Lee is a biologist turned psychologist and chartered psychiatrist. He is is Clinical Director at Sleep Unlimited who provide specialist training, assessments and treatment promoting the health, wellbeing and safety  of individuals and employees. They also train professionals in the application of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia. 

Dr Lee was educated at Loughborough University and has a PhD in Sleep Psychology and has lectured at Newcastle university. He is author of “Teaching the World to Sleep” a book about assessing and treating insomnia for sufferers and practitioners . 


Clinical director at

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Gavin Preston

Gavin is an inspirational Speaker, Business Strategist, Business Growth Mentor, Trainer and high-performance Coach.  He works with Business Owners and Entrepreneurs and has a strong track record in creating the creative strategies to accelerate growth of their business. He has helped hundreds of SME business owners and leaders improve their performance and that of their business and a comparable number of executives and employees in blue chip corporates over the last 20 years.

Gavin’s energetic, insightful and yet down to earth and practical talks, workshops and coaching is in demand with high growth business between £250,000 and £30 million revenue and with multi-national organisations at all levels from Board to frontline Managers. He is an expert in Business Growth Strategies, Peak Performance Mindset, Persuasion & Engagement, Marketing, Productivity, Leadership Development, Team Development & Motivation, Leading Change, Stakeholder Management, Personal Effectiveness and Behavioural Change. 


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