Sleep deprivation could negatively impact your reasoning ability and how you view your current job. It could also affect the way you perform your job. So make sure you are getting your recommended quota of sleep, which could vary between 7 and 9 hours a night, depending upon the nature of the work, your health, your energy level, and so on. We spend about a third of our life sleeping for very good reasons – many of which are yet to be discovered. But we know that sleep allows us to learn new things and transfers significant information into our long-term memory. Sleep prepares and replaces damaged neurons, calms disease-triggering inflammation, and keeps us mentally sharp, creative, and productive. A study published by the National Academy of Sciences reports that even an hour or two less sleep a night can negatively impact more than 700 genes required for repairing cell tissue. According to Dr. Michael J. Twery, “Sleep affects almost every tissue in our bodies.”

Sleep controls the aging process, helps keep our weight, lowers our blood pressure, and impacts our overall health. When people become sleep deprived, their ability to utilize the food they consume drops by about one-third. If people continue to be sleep deprived, it accelerates the aging process. In one study, when healthy 30-year-olds only got about four hours of sleep per night for six days, parts of their body chemistry soon reverted to that of a 60-year-old – and it took about a week to recover.

Another important benefit of sleep was reported in the February 2014 issue of Scientific American Mind. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that sufficient sleep not only restores cognitive functioning but also may fortify the brain over the long term. During sleep, activity is increased in genes involved in producing brain cells responsible for coating neurons with myelin, the brain`s insulating material. As mentioned earlier, this allows electrical impulses to travel quickly and efficiently to other neurons. Myelin deficiency is at the root of multiple sclerosis disease and can contribute to symptoms such as fatigue, vision and hearing impairment, and a loss of coordination. Chiara Cirelli, a neuroscientist and author of the paper describing the above research suggests that sleep helps cells regenerate and repair themselves by helping the body produce new myelin after it has deteriorated.

After fewer than six hours of sleep, on the other hand, you could experience sleepiness, a tired feeling, trouble concentrating, headache, and even nausea. Warning signs of sleep deprivation could also include changes in your mood such as apathy, fatigue, anxiety, nervousness, irritability, and depression. You could be more forgetful than usual, make more mistakes, drive more erratically and anger more easily. These are not what you want when you are attempting to appreciate your current job. Nor would you want to experience mediocre performance and reduced productivity, either in your current job, or the one you are working toward.

Daniel Levitin, in his book, The Organized Mind, says that one out of three Americans gets less than six hours of sleep per night. He records many devastating results of sleep deprivation, in addition to those involving our personal health. In my book, Sleep: A Time Management Strategy, published by Bookboon, I make the case that increasing sleep time for most people can be viewed as a time management strategy. This is true since sufficient sleep keeps the brain sharp and alert, more easily able to pay attention to tasks at hand, and allows the self-discipline needed to resist procrastination and potential interruptions.

Levitin gives the example of basketball players who got 10 hours of sleep a night and improved their performance dramatically. Free throws and three-point shooting each improved by 9%.

But, as important as sleep is in managing your time and personal performance, it is also the key to improved memory and learning. Sleep plays a vital role in processing the learning and events of the day into long-term memory. Memory consolidation takes place while we sleep. So, only part of the brain slumbers while another part does the essential work. As Levitin mentions in his book, students who were stymied by a calculus problem during the day are able to solve it more easily after a night’s sleep – more so than if they had been awake for that equivalent amount of time. A night of sleep more than doubles the likelihood that you will solve a problem requiring insight.

Christine Carter, in her book, The Sweet Spot, says that what most people don’t realize is that high achievers sleep significantly more than the average American. she says that Americans get 6.5 hours of sleep per night even though studies show that 97.5% of the population needs between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night. Elite performers tend to get 8.6 hours of sleep a night. So, if you want to use your current job to learn, gain experience, become a top performer, and prepare yourself for the ideal job ahead, be sure to get sufficient sleep.

We also know from experience that sleeplessness impacts our mood. We are edgier, easily distracted, irritable, and frequently irrational in our thinking. This could taint your view of your existing job and make a positive attitude more difficult. Changing your sleep routine could change your life.

In the next part of this series, we will discuss whether dissatisfaction with your salary is justified.