How to Get More Time to Sleep


Do you get enough sleep?

If six hours is a normal night’s sleep, and you’re addicted to coffee just to wake up in the morning, the answer is probably no.

What I often find surprising is how many people miss sleep, without any need to.  Some people have a legitimate reason for not getting enough sleep.  New parents will have a hard time sleeping eight, uninterrupted hours a day.  But for most people, there is an opportunity for sleep, but sleep is made a low priority.

Example: The All-Night Exam Cram

It’s December, and that means exams for many students.  And with exams, comes the Red Bull induced, 4 a.m. study sessions.  Some students take this approach to an extreme, staying up all night to study for an exam the next day.

This isn’t productive.  Studying isn’t manual labor, it’s brain work.  Sleep is connected with the learning process, and missing hours of sleep doesn’t help you study.  Worse, if you’re skipping sleep the day before an exam, the tiredness will hurt you more than missing a few hours of studying.

Make Sleep a Priority

All of this lost sleep is the result of a myth.  This myth says that the work you accomplish is a direct result of the amount of time you put in.  While this kind of thinking might apply to twisting bolts in a factory, it’s completely wrong when you need to use your mind.

Mental work is a result of your energy levels.  If you are exhausted from lack of sleep, completing the same amount of work can take twice or three times as long.  Cutting sleep for a day or two can help in a crunch, but it doesn’t last.

If you need more sleep, start making it a priority.  No suggestions will work if you still treat sleep like an afterthought to your day.  The truth is, if you can’t regularly accomplish your work with eight hours a night, there’s little chance you could do better on five or six.

How to Make More Time for Sleep

  1. Put work early in the day.  If you’re working until 2 a.m. on a regular basis, it’s probably because you don’t manage your time well.  Move work into earlier hours in the morning.  This will put less pressure on you to stay up all night to finish.
  2. Set a bed time.  Sounds childish, but it works.  If you currently go to bed whenever you feel like it, there’s a good chance you’ll keep pushing your day later and later into the night.  Humans didn’t evolve with electric lighting, so you can’t just trust your body for when the best time to sleep is.
  3. Get rid of the caffeine.  Caffeine is a band-aid.  It helps you stay awake, but it prevents you from healing the underlying problem.  If you can’t sleep on caffeine, avoid it.  If you need it to wake up in the morning, here’s some tips to wake up early without the drugs.
  4. Eliminate your stress.  Okay, so it’s a pretty trite suggestion, but stress can impact your sleeping.  Your life needs to be set up to manage the stress that builds up.  Think about adding some garbage collecting routines to your life to take the mental trash out each day, so it doesn’t build up.
  5. Do less work, and do it smarter.  You’re current time isn’t probably being used with 100% efficiency.  The popularity of productivity blogs is a statement to how bad most people are at handling procrastination.  Boosting your productivity should give you more time for sleep.
  6. Set no-work hours.  When planning your schedule for the next few months, set a few hours at the end of each day where you aren’t allowed to work.  This will force you to get work done earlier in the morning, and make it harder to skip sleep to get things finished.

  • Chris (from Lifestyle Project)

    I’d add that I have found that if I am doing something that ‘engages my brain’ such as blogging, working etc late means my mind is still active so once I am actually ready for sleep I can’t drop off as I have too much going on in my head.

    For this reason I don’t work late and just read some fiction or watch some easy TV for half an hour before bed, so I can get to sleep quicker and therefore get more quality sleep.

  • Tabs

    Great list we should all simply add this to our bedtime routine, or I should say, I will create a bedtime routine from this list. I suffer as a night owl who needs to function during the day. I enjoy the 2am hour more than most but would love to be up by six or seven so, I have to decide which one benefits me the most right now. I don’t need a crystal ball figure that one out.


  • Richard

    I find I don’t work well in the morning, so do tend to work later in the day, but do have set ‘no work’ hours.

  • Nicolas

    Getting up early in the morning is very important. Your productivity is higher because you get less disturbed and in the evening you will be tired and sleep easily.
    However, I know many people who find it difficult to get up early in the morning. In my Time Management Master blog I wrote an article on how to get up early in the morning – just follow the link.

  • rupss

    nice post Scott.
    too bad most of us high school students are forced, by schedule, to do our work in the evening/night!

  • ukproducer

    I like “Set no work hours” bit. I think that will drive me to be more productive at other times.

  • Alina

    My favourite was setting a bed time and setting no-work hours. =)

  • Sharon Rose

    Hey Scott,
    I’ve been following your blog for about 6 weeks now and you have many interesting points of view. From this post in particular, I really like the concept of “adding some garbage collecting routines…to take out the mental trash each day.” I get what you are saying conceptually…like clearing the cache of your browser. Just wondering if you have any suggestions to put into practice?

    I’m an independent technology consultant so I have my client’s work to do, then the business of running my business, all while attempting to maintain a decent social life. By the end of the week the mental trash is like an overflowing dumpster. Any suggestions are appreciated!


  • outstanding

    spend about third of our lives asleep and most of us need between six and eight hours sleep to be alert and effective throughout the day , adequate sleep is important to ensure we have sufficient energy . however it is also essential to help restore normal function in the body.

    our sleeping pattern will be adversely affected by sedentary behavior , lack of regular sleep pattern and use of stimulants eg: coffee , alcohol or nicotine.
    great informative post and coll tips thanks for sharing this scott

  • Gabriel

    A lot of people complain about insomnia and never being able to fall asleep, that’s just a sign they’re not being productive with their life. Having a regular healthy amount of sleep is vital to be productive.

    The thing I find interesting is that Donald Trump claims that he only sleeps 4 hours per night. I really question that, but there some people who can do things that break out of the ordinary

  • NVN

    Like a poster above, I could really use help with the “garbage collecting” aspects of stress reduction. I searched your archives to see if you’d done a post on it, and couldn’t find anything – pointers?

    I currently struggle with insomnia and have a lot of trouble shutting off my brain at night – even when everything is in a state of done. I have to use a meditation tape to re-direct, and even then I clench my jaw so hard while I sleep that I get headaches.

    I use a modified GTD system to try to cache my “someday” stuff and compartmentalize everything else, but even that isn’t enough. Any and all garbage-collection ideas would be very welcome.

  • Josh

    Hi Scott,

    I have recently gotten hooked on productivity blogs such as yours, and I find all of this fascinating!

    Anyway, I recently read an article by Steve Pavlina about how to become an early-riser which suggests setting a wake-up time and only going to bed when you are truly sleepy so as to avoid wasting time tossing and turning in bed. On the other hand, you propose setting a bed time because “you can’t just trust your body for when the best time to sleep is.”

    What do you think of Pavlina’s approach?


  • Scott Young


    Pavlina’s approach has two weaknesses, in my mind:

    1. With a constant waking time, some days you get a lot less sleep which can disrupt your habit of waking up. If you set yourself the goal to wake up at 6 every day, that can be difficult to sustain if you go to bed at 1am some days and 10am at others. It’s not impossible, just harder.

    2. If you have any caffeine in your system that can also make it more difficult.


  • poo yee

    i study best at night ,so wht should i do ?

  • francina

    The truth that is set in this post.

    I’ve followed a similar pattern of having a bed time and waking up the same time. Only thing I missed was being productive the rest of the 14-18hrs that I’m awake.

  • Christine

    Wow! i am so impressed by what you do, and if i knew that you do so much reaserches on life, on studies and everythings, we could share much more interesting conversation during our mandarin sessions.
    wish you best and hope you keep on learning mandarin!

  • Scott Young

    謝謝 Christine!

  • Samson

    I am in the night shifts for 10 hours continously and by the time I reach home, it would cover the next 2hours and be 12Hrs of work life every day. Request you to suggest the best practice for a good sleep as I was not able to sleep more except 4-6 hours from 6AM-11.30 or 12 Noon.

  • Arpit Ward

    Sleeping is like resting our body, if we don’t have a proper sleep then our body & brain will be tired which results a non-productiveness in our life. The gap between getting just enough sleep and getting too little sleep may affect your health, our mood and weight. A proper and healthy sleep is very important in our day to day life.Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom. Keep up the good work – I mean passion.