Performing Better In Work, School, Life

Want to become more productive and perform better? Studies have shown that the single greatest thing you can do is to get more sleep.

More than one-third of working adults in the U.S. get less than six hours of sleep a night. This equates to 40 million Americans (200,000 in Hawaii) on the road every day with insufficient sleep, and it costs U.S. businesses more than $63 billion in lost productivity every year.

When I was a cadet at West Point and an officer in the Army, we would say that “sleep is a crutch” or “we’ll sleep when we are dead.” That day will come sooner if we don’t get the adequate sleep necessary for our health and performance. Our brain can remove toxic proteins, which impair our ability to think, from its neurons only while we are asleep.

Insufficient sleep also slows our ability to solve problems and process information. It kills creativity and raises our stress and emotional instability.

Sleep deprivation has been linked to serious health problems, such as heart attacks, strokes, type 2 diabetes and obesity. The body will over-produce the stress hormone cortisol, which, in turn, weakens the immune system and makes people look older, since cortisol breaks down skin collagen, the protein that keeps our skin smooth.

Not sleeping enough also makes you gain weight! When you sleep less, your body has difficulty metabolizing the calories you eat and makes you hungrier by increasing the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin. People who get less than six hours of sleep a night are 30 percent more likely to become obese than those with seven to nine hours a night.

So, how much sleep do you need?

Studies show that seven to nine hours is the ideal amount to be sufficiently rested. At this amount, you will think more clearly, manage your emotions better and remain calmer under pressure, which all have a direct link to better performance and productivity. Your emotional intelligence also goes up, helping you monitor your own and other people’s emotions better. This also helps you invest better and get higher returns!

How you sleep, in addition to how much you sleep, also is very important.

Here are some tips to help increase the quality of your sleep and clean up your sleep hygiene. For more tips, visit

1) Stop drinking caffeine after lunch. Caffeine has a six-hour half-life that takes a full 24 hours to get out of your system. If you have a cup at 8 a.m., 25 percent of it will still be in your system at 8 p.m.

Anything after noon means at least 50 percent will be your system around bedtime. Caffeine also disrupts your quality of sleep by reducing rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the deep sleep you need the most.

2) Avoid blue light at night. Many people don’t realize that the short-wavelength blue light that comes from televisions, smartphones, tablets and computers halts production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. Blue light is at its peak in the morning from sunlight, so seeing blue light at night confuses your brain. Avoid blue light at night or limit exposure through a filter.

3) Avoid sleeping pills. These sedatives interfere with your normal sleep cycle, which is why you may have strange dreams when you take them! When the brain’s natural process is altered, it is more difficult to get the quality of sleep you need. david@