Sleep will help extend the time you have available to get things done, and thus sleep is an important time management strategy. And as I continue to write, speak professionally, and develop training programs in my eighties, I can almost speak from personal experience. I say almost since there are a lot of things besides sleep that contribute to brain health and longevity. But just as I tried practicing what I preach in order to slow the perceived passage of time — as described in my book Slowing down the speed of life — I have recently brought my sleep time from six hours a night to seven hours a night with equally good results.
I didn’t always think this way. Over thirty years ago I had joined other time management consultants in recommending the opposite; sleep less and get more done. We urged our clients to set their alarms 15 minutes earlier each week until they noticed that they got tired by early afternoon, and then set it back to the last setting. We felt many people were getting more sleep than they needed (and some were), and that if they could get a head start on the day with an extra half hour or more of “prime time”, they could get more done.
This was before the holistic time management era — and before all the research now available on the role sleep plays in our health, longevity, and productivity. It was also before the digital age of speed. Now, people don’t even have to get out of bed to start working; they can sleep with their Blackberries, iPads, or smart phones, which can then accompany them from bedroom to bathroom to breakfast to bus or car to business and to the boardroom.
Today there is little concern about sleeping too much; the concern is about sleeping too little. The lure of the Internet, computer games, social media, e-mail and text messaging keep us from going to bed early. And the stress of the day, the worry of unfinished tasks lingering in our thoughts, and the widespread view that sleep is an inconvenience to be tolerated but not enjoyed, keep us from sleeping soundly once we are there.
Gary Small, who writes the Brain Bulletin, and speaks on that topic, says that sleep deprivation is one of the risk factors in Alzheimer’s. The June, 2014 issue of Scientific American Mind quotes neuroscientist Dwayne Godwin as saying that sleep helps clear the brain, flushing away waste products such as Alzheimer’s-related proteins. One sleep scientist claims that sleep is one of the most important predictors of how long you will live — as important as whether you smoke, exercise or have high blood pressure.
And I claim that through adequate sleep, you can increase your personal productivity and effectiveness by at least 20 percent, reduce anxiety and stress, and increase your health and well-being in the process.
In my brief book, Sleep: a time management strategy, I claim that sleep is one of the most important time management strategies for you and for your staff, clients and family.
Perhaps I couldn’t make this claim before the advent of electronic technology; because back in those days most people were probably getting sufficient sleep. The average person now gets 90 minutes less sleep a night than a century ago. In my lifetime, the average amount of sleep we get has decreased from just over eight hours to 6.7 hours. (I recently read a figure of 6.5 hours, along with an explanation that this is the average amount of sleep people say they get but by the measurement of brain activity while these same people were sleeping, the actual figure was 6.1 hours.)
62 percent of Americans report difficulty sleeping at least a few nights a week. About 90 percent of teens in the U.S. don’t get enough sleep. And children who don’t get enough sleep are often misdiagnosed with ADHD.
If you get less than six hours sleep a night you are considered to be sleep deprived. And even getting less than seven hours a night produces sleep debt that should be repaid by napping, which is also discussed in my book, Sleep: a time management strategy.
Yes, taking dementia and any current health issues out of the equation, getting an average of 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night will increase your personal productivity. I am referring to the amount of actual sleep you actually get, not the amount of time you spend in bed.