Eat Move Sleep: How Small Choices Lead to Big Changes by Tom Rath

Sleep Longer to Get More Done

One less hour of sleep does not equal an extra hour of achievement or enjoyment. The exact opposite occurs. When you lose an hour of sleep, it decreases your well-being, productivity, health, and ability to think. Yet people continue to sacrifice sleep before all else.

In some workplaces, it is a badge of honor to “pull an all-nighter” to get work done. Then comes boasting about having only four hours of sleep the night before a meeting to show your colleagues just how hard you are working. I fell into this trap for many years, until I realized just how flawed this logic is from every vantage point.

One of the most influential studies of human performance, conducted by professor K. Anders Ericsson, found that elite performers need 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice” to reach levels of greatness. While this finding sparked a debate about the role of natural talent versus countless hours of practice, another element was all but missed. If you go back to Ericsson’s landmark 1993 study, there was another factor that significantly influenced peak performance: sleep. On average, the best performers slept 8 hours and 36 minutes. The average American, for comparison, gets just 6 hours and 51 minutes of sleep on weeknights.

The person you want to fly your airplane, operate on your body, teach your children, or lead your organization tomorrow is the one who sleeps soundly tonight. Yet in many cases, people in these vital occupations are the ones who think they need the least sleep. And more than 30 percent of workers sleep less than six hours per night.

This sleep-related productivity loss costs about $2,000 per person a year and leads to poorer performance and lower work quality. Getting fewer than six hours of sleep a night is also the top risk factor for burnout on the job. If you want to succeed in your job, make sure your work allows you to stay in bed long enough.

Professor Ericsson’s studies of elite performers — including musicians, athletes, actors, and chess players — also reveal how resting more can maximize achievement. He found that the top performers in each of these fields typically practice in focused sessions lasting no longer than 90 minutes. The best performers work in bursts. They take frequent breaks to avoid exhaustion and ensure they can recover completely. This allows them to keep going the next day.

Prevent sleeplessness from slowing you down. Working on a task too long can actually decrease your performance. To avoid this, work in bursts, take regular breaks, and make sure you get enough sleep to be productive. When you need an extra hour of energy, add an hour of sleep.

Your Cool Eustress from the book Eat Move Sleep of Tom Rath


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