There’s a lot of talk about sleep at the moment; partly I suspect it’s because (in the Northern hemisphere) we’re headed for that time of year when the nights start earlier and many animals hibernate. There’s also been a lot of media coverage, with Dr Michael Mosely once again putting himself through sleep deprivation in the name of science. Only last month there was the sad case of Moritz Erhardt, the bank intern who died in London after working crazy hours. And now we have the brain-washing study.
Most of us just aren’t getting enough of the stuff. And no, it’s not big or clever (or tough, rarrrrrrr) to see how little sleep we can survive on. Yes, there are rare souls (such as the late Margaret Thatcher) who can survive on very little. But most of us mere mortals need at least 7 hours. And we’re routinely depriving ourselves, not just of time spent asleep, but also the right kind and quality of sleep when we do nod off.
What does lack of sleep lead to? Ready, get set, brace yourself:
- Craving the wrong foods, which leads to obesity, which leads to
- Poor cognitive performance (plain English: we can’t think straight, if indeed we can think at all)
- Memory loss
- Poor motor skills
- Cardiovascular disease
- Inability to think creatively
- Impaired communication skills
There’s more, but I’m guessing you’ve got the picture: lack of good sleep damages not just our careers, but all aspects of our lives. We don’t perform better if we try to get by and get everything done by cutting back on sleep. Quite the opposite.
We’re entitled to enough sleep, more than we’re entitled to cream cakes / another drink / a pay rise / those great shoes / a holiday. It does more for us than any dietary supplement can.
The different sources agree on a few core strategies to help us get enough sleep:
- Have a caffeine curfew
- No technology in bed, or ideally for an hour before retiring
- Have a routine – retiring and rising at regular times
Barbara Mendez recently wrote a great piece on entrepreneurs and sleep habits. I particularly like the advice to write down the three best things about your day and three things you’ll do tomorrow. You can read the full article here.