- Scott H Young - https://www.scotthyoung.com/blog -

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 [1].  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 [2].
  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.