If you’re going to make one resolution for 2015, this should be it.
According to recent research from the University of Surrey, not getting enough sleep can have a far more serious impact on your health than you might imagine. Researchers discovered that, compared to those who enjoyed 7.5 hours of sleep per night, the genes associated with diabetes and developing cancer were far more active in those who slept just an hour less. Yet the average person in the UK gets just 6.5 hours each night, and work pressures mean that many of us struggle to stay in bed that bit longer (even when we want to). But if you’re going to make one New Year’s resolution this year, getting enough sleep should be it.
Many City workers cut the number of hours of sleep they take in order to compete in their jobs. And examples of business leaders who manage to get by on very little are legion. Yahoo chief executive Marissa Mayer, for example, reportedly sleeps between four and six hours a night, while Donald Trump gets by on just three to four hours.
This approach seems logical. After all, how can you succeed if you’re asleep? Trump has questioned how someone sleeping 12 hours a day can expect to compete with someone sleeping three to four hours. And as researchers at the University of Oxford revealed last year, after falling for all categories of workers for decades, from the 1980s, the total number of weekly hours worked has risen for the highest educated – including those in the City.
HOW MUCH DO WE ACTUALLY NEED?
But while the amount of sleep needed varies between individuals, and some will be able to manage on very little, it is still important to wake up feeling refreshed and ready to face the day. If you constantly reach for coffee or energy drinks before feeling able to function in the morning, it could be time to get an extra hour or two.
Indeed, this link with productivity is important. Memory problems and stress are just two everyday issues exacerbated by lack of sleep. Other problems associated with it include irritability, slow reactions, increased risk taking, and an inability to learn. Maintaining a good level of sleep can help with these issues, and should also keep you focused on your goals.
NOT A LUXURY
Sleep is a time for your brain to work through the information and memories that you have gained from the day, sorting and storing them as appropriate. By not getting enough sleep, your ability to process what is going on and make decisions is reduced. Getting enough sleep means that you’ll wake up clear headed and ready to take in more information that day.
Sleep is restorative, so having enough time in which your mind can restore itself enables you to handle stress, irritation and emotional trauma effectively. When it’s busy and stressful at work or at home, sleep can seem like a luxury. But ensuring you get enough is an essential step in making sure you are at peak performance. If you get enough sleep this year, both your career and family will benefit.
Lee Bradshaw works at Vistage, the leadership organisation for business owners (www.vistage.co.uk).
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