Could one extra hour of sleep make a difference in your professional life? Here are some ways to fit in that extra hour and reap the benefits.
Most of us aren't getting as much sleep as we should be. Though needs vary based on individual differences, the National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get seven to nine hours of sleep every night. But think about all the nights you've recently forgone the full duration of a night's sleep to watch the latest episode of your favorite TV show, finish a project for work or simply catch up on your household responsibilities.
For a busy professional or entrepreneur, the idea of getting more sleep can be daunting. You barely have enough time for all your current responsibilities, so why would you try to shoehorn more hours of sleep into your day? But if you're struggling with getting enough sleep, there's a simple compromise that almost anyone can use, and it has a surprisingly powerful effect on your performance.
A Compromise: One Hour of Extra Sleep
The idea here is to focus on getting just one hour of extra sleep every night. If you currently get five hours, try for six. If you get six hours, try for seven. If you plan your approach carefully, you shouldn't need a dramatic shift in your lifestyle to make this happen:
- Set a firm cutoff. For example, you could commit to stop working after 10 p.m., instead of letting your work bleed into your sleeping hours.
- Squeeze in a nap. Studies show that naps can count toward your overall sleep for the day, so if you can't squeeze an extra hour into your existing sleep patterns, consider using a midday lull as an opportunity for the extra bit of sleep you need.
- Wake up later. Provided you have flexibility with punctuality, you could try to sleep in an extra hour; that way, you'll miss the worst of the traffic, and you'll end up with just as many working hours as you did before.
- Split the time. Instead of wedging an hour into your day or night, you could go to bed 30 minutes earlier and wake up 30 minutes later.
One hour of sleep probably doesn't sound like it's going to make much of a difference; after all, if seven hours of sleep is plenty, six hours should be pretty good too. But the numbers here don't lie. Only 3 percent of the population can perform at optimal levels after getting six hours of sleep. That means the other 97 percent need that extra hour to make up the difference.
So what benefits can that extra hour of sleep a night get you?
- Higher alertness and faster reaction times. One hour of extra sleep can be enough to take you from feeling fatigued and lacking energy to being alert and ready to perform. Once you start getting an hour of extra sleep each night on a regular basis, you'll have quicker reaction times and be able to think more clearly and alertly. You'll find yourself able to make better decisions as well. Try keeping track of your subjective feelings with a journal so you can demonstrate the effects.
- Reduced risk of illness. Getting more sleep reduces your risk of developing an illness that can seriously interfere with your work. Sleeping in healthy patterns leads to a healthier, more active immune system, which will protect you from many physical ailments. You may also be at a lower risk for mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety.
- Better memory. Research shows that an hour of sleep is more than enough to improve your memory. For demanding environments where fast, on-the-go learning is essential, or where you're in charge of managing many moving pieces, this is extremely important. You don't want to forget your client's name in the middle of a meeting just because you didn't get enough sleep.
- Higher productivity. Finally, and perhaps most obviously, when you're better rested, even by just an extra hour, you'll be able to get more done every day. You'll spend an extra hour at rest, but you might be able to squeeze in an hour of extra tasks and responsibilities to make up for it.
The importance of quality
Though it's important to get a minimum number of hours of sleep every night, that number assumes you're getting quality sleep. Quality sleep is deep and uninterrupted, and your sleep quality can vary without your conscious knowledge. For example, small disturbances throughout the night, like changes in lighting or noise, could stir you from your natural sleep cycles and render your hours of sleep somewhat incomplete. When you fit in your extra hour, if you want the greatest benefits, make sure it's part of a quality block of sleep.