If you’re the kind of person who says, ‘I only need five hours sleep’, you probably get a lot done. Your ability to power through with little or no rest leaves colleagues in awe of your dedication and helps you to reach your full potential.

The thing is, you’re actually running at half capacity.

Sleep brings with it many health benefits but it can also make you a better worker. It can help tackle distraction, lack of engagement in your work and could even help wean you off that five coffee a day habit. Rather than wasting good work time, getting a good night’s sleep is one of the simplest ways to boost your productivity.

Why is sleep deprivation so bad anyway?

You’re getting everything done on time, you’re meeting all your goals. So what’s the problem?

Sleeplessness is often associated with high performance. It’s worn almost like a badge of honour. But the reality is that those lacking in sleep reach exhaustion 11% faster than anyone else.  That’s the difference between getting tired at 4:15 and 5, or the difference between clearing that last task off your desk or having to deal with it the next day.

If you get less than 6 hours sleep on a regular basis you will find yourself getting stressed out easier. You’re more prone to burnout when you’re running on empty. Sure you’re smashing those deadlines and keeping on top of everything but there will come a time when it all gets a bit much and not sleeping will make it that much harder to cope.

You’re not yourself when you’re sleepy

Procrastination and tiredness go hand in hand. The reason why you’ve been staring at a blank PowerPoint, willing it to write itself, or why you keep asking everyone if they want tea, is most likely the less than stellar sleep you had the previous night. On the other hand, when you’ve had more than 7 hours sleep you’re psychologically prepared for whatever the workday throws your way.

Your ability to solve problems is vastly improved by getting more sleep. The mind works in mysterious ways and one of its brilliant design features is that it processes all the details of the day while you sleep. Whenever writer Steven King was confronted with writer’s block he would just ‘let the boys in the basement work on it overnight’. Everything is clearer in the morning for a reason.

Time for a nap

It’s easy for us to say ‘get more sleep’ but how do you actually go about this? Naps are an easy way to give yourself boost of energy. Einstein loved naps. They bring a number of health benefits, mainly a positive impact on performance. In a study night shift air traffic controllers were given 40 minutes to nap, and slept an average 19 minutes. When tested they performed better, were more vigilant and had faster reaction times than those who didn’t nap.

Invest in an alarm clock

Using a smartphone before sleep nearly doubles the chances of sleeping badly. It also messes with our circadian rhythm, or what we know as our biological clock. It can make you feel more alert at night, and groggy during the day, playing havoc with your energy levels and ability to get anything done.  Try sleeping without your phone by your side. Use an old fashioned alarm clock instead and avoid the temptation to check just one more email or watch one more episode on Netflix.

Five hours sleep does not make you superhuman and it’s not something to aspire to. You’ll get more done by sleeping in, taking more breaks and taking naps than you ever will by fuelling yourself with coffee. Start building good habits now. The next time you hear yourself saying, ‘I only need five hours sleep’ think, ‘yeah, but what if I had eight?’

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