10 Ways to Make Time for Sleep & Why it Matters
A woman once asked me if I think the recommendations for appropriate sleep durations of 7–9 hours of sleep are totally unrealistic (with much emphasis on the word totally). I explained how very few people are truly “short sleepers” —about 3% of the population by some estimates. Many are short-sleeper wannabes, trying to function on less than they need—which usually does not yield good results. The woman insisted, “no one I know can afford to spend that much time sleeping.” My response was that no one can afford not to spend time getting the sleep they need—and here’s why. Research demonstrates that sufficient sleep—a biological requirement—leads to good health and well-being as well as improved efficiency, problem solving, creativity, motivation, judgement, mood, and focus. These are the very things we need to get more done and do it better—leading to improved productivity, performance, optimal functioning and success. Yet it’s all too acceptable in our society to sacrifice sleep in our attempts to get things done, with many of us believing the need for sleep is a weakness that can be overcome or a luxury we don’t deserve. But the evidence strongly disproves these misconceptions.
Flip the script on your outdated perception of sleep
Unfortunately, the “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” mentality is alive and well. I can’t tell you how many people use that phrase and then elaborate by saying they are so busy with so many things that they neither have the time nor make the time in their hectic lives for the sleep they need. What’s concerning and just plain wrong about this approach is that insufficient sleep leads to so many problems that are, ironically, time consuming. Serious illness, chronic health problems, substance abuse, forgetfulness, car crashes, depression, obesity, burnout, hospitalizations, accidents, poor decision making, relationship problems, workplace problems, stress … the list goes on.
It’s the quality of your waking hours, not the quantity
Keep in mind that the quality of your waking hours is more important than the quantity. Far too many of us erroneously sacrifice sleep in a misguided attempt to be more productive. Yet sleep deprivation kills productivity; it impairs cognitive performance, meaning that much more can be accomplished in fewer hours by a well-rested person than by a sleep-deprived one. Sufficient sleep allows a person to work smarter, not harder. We’ve been told that “time is money,” but we require mental clarity, energy, resilience, a positive outlook, and good health to monetize our time, and those things (and a host of other benefits) come with adequate sleep.
Time spent getting adequate sleep is time well spent
The reality is that productive and successful people (who are not short sleepers) make time for sufficient sleep and reap the rewards. Neil Patel wrote in Entrepreneur,
Right now, I’m running three multi-million-dollar businesses, traveling full-time, networking like crazy and writing articles for numerous publications. Guess how much sleep I’m getting? Probably more than you. In fact, I sleep a lot. I average 9.25 hours of sleep a night, which is way more than most people, apparently! A Gallup poll reports that the average U.S. adult gets 6.8 hours of sleep a night. In contrast, I’m clocking in at more than nine hours every night: I go to bed around 10 p.m. and sleep until 7:15 a.m. I love sleep.
If his schedule prompts a second look at how well you manage your time, start by prioritizing sleep and scheduling your daily sleep requirement as a non-negotiable item. To help make the most of your waking hours, try the following:
- Utilize time-management tools. Use software or a paper planner to gain a clear understanding of how you spend your time each day and how to better manage it.
- Make a to-do list every day, either at night before bed or in the morning. Create a list that includes how much time you’ll spend on each item on the list. Always keep it with you.
- Get organized and uncluttered. Know where things are at all times.
- Identify things you can delegate, outsource, or say no to.
- Use Do Not Disturb signs to ensure uninterrupted time to work or to sleep.
- Set no-work hours and enforce them.
- Set an alarm for bedtime.
- Don’t use the snooze button at wake time.
- Do less and prioritize relentlessly. (In other words, do the stuff that really matters.)
- Identify and eliminate time wasters. Self-imposed sleep deprivation is all too common. Astonishingly, the average American watches somewhere in the neighborhood of five hours of TV per day.
More waking hours is not the goal; better waking hours is the goal
If adequate sleep never gets crossed off as “done” on your to-do list, take the time to rethink your approach to a healthy, balanced and fulfilled life. For one week, try scheduling a sufficient amount of sleep as your number one, non-negotiable, must-get-done-above-all-else item on that list. At the week’s conclusion, note any improvement in the way you feel, your overall alertness, energy level, your performance and productivity. Weighing the benefits of sufficient sleep against two more episodes of your favorite TV show should be a no-brainer.