The Sleep Factor: How it Affects Your Performance

We’ve all heard the stories of the amazing things people have done on little rest. I recently heard that former General Mcchrystal only slept somewhere between 4 and 6 hours per night. We often celebrate those who sacrifice well needed rest in order to serve the greater good. We are often impressed that people can function at such an intense level with so little rest. It may be impressive, but that doesn’t make it good for you.

A June 2010 Newsweek article entitled “The Surprising Toll of Sleep Deprivation”, discusses a research study that only allowed participants 6 hours of sleep per night for a two week period. The study found that even though the subjects felt some sleepiness and “they thought they were functioning normally, formal testing showed that their cognitive abilities and reaction times progressively declined over the two weeks. By the end of the two week test, they were as impaired as subjects who had been continuously awake for 48 hours”.

When you look at these results, it’s very clear to see that many people are not performing at their optimal level. Add year upon year onto those 2 weeks and you can see where being tired turns into burn out. And if the burn out isn’t apparent on the outside, it is definitely noticeable on the inside. I’m not going to spend a lot of time scaring you with statics, but it is important to note that sleep deprivation is linked to several health problems including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. When you look at it from that perspective, getting enough sleep seems like the best way to retain and excel in your career.

How do you find the time to add the 2 more hours of sleep you need?

  • There will be days when you have a late night in the office, but they should be the exception. For people who can’t seem to leave the office, give yourself a time and stick to it.
  • On the weekends, cook the meals for the week and plan the clothing you will wear each week. This will save you a lot of time in the evenings that you can now devote to sleep.
  • Put a limit on how many activities your children are involved in. Not only will this free up some of your time, it will give you more time to spend with them before they are off to bed.
  • Set a time in which you will commit to turning everything off:  TV, computer, and blackberry.
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