In my last article I listed some compelling reasons why business owners, independent professionals and executives need to make getting enough sleep a priority, at least if they need to think, have insights, be creative, or stay healthy to be successful. But how do you know how much sleep you actually need?

You need 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night

The first thing to know is that almost all adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep every night. Yes, there are a few outliers—a tiny number of people who consistently sleep less than seven hours then wake refreshed, and who never seem to have their health compromised by it. If you have that particular genetic anomaly, congratulations. I am definitely jealous of you.

alarm clockFor the rest of us, that kind of sleep schedule would be physically, emotionally, and cognitively punishing. If we want to have the many benefits of good sleep, we need to start by scheduling enough pillow time.

Now, everyone’s sleep need is individual. So how do you know where you fall on that 7-9 hour spectrum?

How Much Exactly? The Test

The real test for whether you are getting enough sleep: do you wake up without an alarm, then get through your day without needing any type of stimulant, like caffeine? If you answer yes, then you are getting enough sleep. Make sure you regularly schedule that amount of time for sleeping every night.

Sleep Yourself Out First

Of course, if you regularly allow yourself only five hours of sleep during the workweek, then sleep ten hours on Friday night, you know already that you’re sleep deprived. And it doesn’t mean you need ten hours of sleep per night regularly. It just means your body was desperate to make up some of that sleep deficit.

If you aren’t sure whether you are sleep deprived, I have another test for you: does it take you about 15 minutes to fall asleep? If so, then you are probably getting enough sleep.

But if it takes less than that 15 minutes, you are probably sleep deprived. Start scheduling more sleep time every night until you notice that you don’t conk out the second your head hits the pillow. Instead, you should notice that it takes a little time for your thoughts to wander before you drift off.

You will need to sleep yourself out for several nights in a row to be sure you’ve cleared out any sleep deficit. Once that sleep deficit is gone, you will start sleeping the number of hours that is right for you.

While I know it is easier for me to tell you to “sleep yourself out every night for several nights in a row” than it is to actually do it in today’s world, you should make a point to do it anyway. Knowing how much sleep you really need is valuable information. When you start getting that amount of sleep consistently, you’ll be able to function much more effectively on many levels beyond just feeling better. In particular, your productivity and efficiency will go way up.

So do this for your business even if you won’t do it for your quality of life.

Go See a Doctor for Too Much or Too Little Sleep

Of course, if you consistently need more than nine hours of sleep nightly, you should go see your doctor to rule out—and treat!—the many possible sleep problems like sleep apnea or hypothyroidism that might be causing that excessive need.

Or, if you have a lot of trouble falling or staying asleep night after night despite being tired, you should get checked out, too. If your doctor finds no physical reason for the problem, you are likely experiencing a stress-related sleep issue.

That’s where I spend most of my time with my clients. I have a lot of techniques to bring that stress down so you can sleep that I’ll be sharing here in my articles.

But next time I want to get to something that doesn’t have anything to do with sleep—a technique I’ve been using with my clients who made some New Year’s resolutions that don’t seem to be going anywhere. If that sounds like you, be sure to check it out.

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