Sleep Your Way to Good Performance

Are you wondering how you can improve your performance at work or at some other practice or task in you life?

Harvard Business Review has an article, Sleep is More Important than Food (which I found via Lifehacker), that is an excellent summary of research and scientific opinion on the impact sleep has on performance.

Whether it’s professional violinists or CEOs, study after study find that sleep deprivation, even the shaving of an hour here and an hour there, results in reduced reaction time, harder time concentrating, poor memory and processing speed.

I go through periods where I am very diligent about sleep and other periods where I shave an hour here and there which I really don’t have the luxury of doing without impacting my ability to function with ease.

I know I need more sleep when I feel myself having less patience with customers.  There is a direct correlation between my sleep habits and my usually unending patience developing limits.  I am currently in a phase where I’m trying to get 9 hours of sleep every night except Thursdays which are impossible because I work the late shift at the library and then turn around and work the day shift on Fridays.  I feel better:  more patient, more energetic, more cheerful, happier.

In the HBR article, the author asks why we think it’s okay to shave sleep, to essentially deprive our bodies of an essential need, when we wouldn’t deny it food and water.  I think this is an interesting question.  Why are we willing to sacrifice health and happiness?  For sure, there is a perceived notion that the time spent not sleeping is “getting things done;” but, I bet that is not true.  It is especially not true if it’s the third night of not getting enough sleep…because then you are spending your awake hours not performing your best anyway.  And it’s probably weighing in on your relationships too.

Depriving yourself of good sleep is affecting your ability to function in all parts of your life.  It affects your personal relationships.  It effects your business relationships.  It effects your ability to remember important things and work efficiently.  It effects your mood and your ability to appreciate your life.

If you do one thing differently today, go to bed early.  It will benefit you, your family and your workplace.  If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, seek out help from your doctor.

In fact, I challenge you to get at least 8.5 hours of sleep for the next 7 nights.  Keep track.  I’ve been writing down the number of hours I sleep on a calendar.  It keeps me motivated and honest.  Plus, I can look back and feel that I’m accomplishing something and doing the things I need to do to remain healthy.  Last night I went to bed at 9:15 and got up at 8am.  I was in Brooklyn Saturday night and the noise disrupted my sleep and I suspect my body was catching up.

Do it.  For the next 7 days, sleep 8.5 hours a night, document it.  See how you feel on the 8th day.  I predict you’ll feel rejuvenated.

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