Looking for some practical ways to be more productive, more engaged, more successful in your personal and professional life? I suggest you sleep on it—literally.

Many of today’s professionals significantly undervalue the importance of sleep. They see it as wasted time, and aim for radical sleep schedules where they just get two hours each night, or perhaps eschew traditional sleeping altogether in favor of 20-minute cat naps throughout the day. The thinking is that this leads to less wasted time and more productivity, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Listen, I’m a doctor, so believe me when I tell you: Your body and mind need sleep. Getting your eight hours each night is not wasting time. Actually, it’s recharging your creative batteries, resetting your body’s energy levels, and putting you in the physical and emotional place where you can really achieve at a high level. Plus, it’s staving off stress, anxiety, and burnout.

You need sleep—so instead of wearing your sleepless nights like a badge of honor, try actually investing in the down time you need to become a truly productive, creative, and engaged person.

Here are some tips:

Set a schedule. Yes, you’re a grownup, so you may feel like you no longer need a “bed time”—but developing sleep habits and routines will help prevent insomnia or restless nights. Analyze your day and try to figure out the best window for getting eight hours of uninterrupted ZZZ’s. Factor in 15 minutes or so to actually fall asleep once you’re in bed.

Avoid stimulants before bed. This includes alcohol, which may help you fall asleep but can also impair the quality of your sleep. Turn off all electronics an hour before bed, too; they offer a lot of needless stimulation.

Create a healthy sleeping environment. Dark, cool, and quiet—that’s the kind of room you want to get good, restorative sleep.

Keep a worry journal. If you’ve got unchecked items on your to-do list that are keeping you up, write them down in a journal before you go to bed; simply making notes can help you feel a little better, enough to let go and drift to sleep.

Exercise. Working out during the day has been proven to boost sleep quality.

Nap smartly. If you do need to nap, be smart about it. Drink a cup of coffee before napping, which will help you wake up refreshed. Keep it to 20 minutes or less to avoid waking up feeling groggy. And don’t nap after three o’clock in the afternoon; doing so could impair your ability to fall to sleep that night.

More than anything else, get wise to the reality that sleeping properly is an investment in your productivity—not a hindrance to it!


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