Mom was right: you need your sleep. The research that has been pouring in has been telling us over and over that we all need enough sleep. When we don’t get it, all sorts of bad things happen. We eat more. We get depressed. We get anxious. We have more accidents. With too much sleep loss we develop chronic and life-threatening problems, like heart disease, high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes.

These are all excellent reasons to make sleep a priority, but many people fail to act on them the same way we fail to exercise or eat healthier even though we know the importance of both. We are pretty good at discounting the downsides of losing sleep with a “Maybe someday that could happen to me, but I don’t have time to think about it now. I’ve got too much to do!”

Asleep at work
from Flickr user Cell105

We are all so busy, it can seem like a reasonable trade to give up an hour or two (or three) of sleep and suffer those consequences in the future just to get more done in the present. But it’s not. Let me tell you what losing sleep actually does to your work right now.

First, losing sleep lowers your ability to concentrate and think through cognitive tasks. And this can happen with just one night of too little sleep.

In addition, your creativity and insight drop. Perhaps some folks don’t need to be able to make connections and come up with new ideas to succeed, but the executives, professionals and business owners I work with all see those abilities as essential to what they do. Again, you only need one night of short sleep to lose ground.

A night of too little sleep also often leads to irritability, which is not great for bringing in new business, dealing with higher-ups, keeping customers happy, or even getting the best out of those people working for you.

You might have memory lapses or even memory loss as you lose more and more sleep.

Finally, lack of sleep lowers your immune system, making it more likely that you will get sick. How productive were you the last time you had the flu? Or even just a cold?

For any and all these reasons, if you don’t get enough sleep your career or your business will suffer. So follow the example of Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, and insist on getting the right amount of sleep every night to be able to do your work.

Next time I’ll help you figure out how much sleep you need. Until then, pleasant dreams!

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