Wander Woman

Guidance for the goal-driven woman

Why You Should Never Work Late

What you do before you go to bed can affect your sleep

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Many high-achievers pride themselves on the completion of tasks, meeting or being done well ahead of deadlines. They can check the projects off the list, and it may be done well, but often it is not their best work. They go back to it months later and find the mistakes. Why did they miss these in the first place? Lack of sleep.

Even if you aren’t a high-achiever, you are probably overworking like most people I know. Are you compelled to check your email one last time before you go to bed? Do you occasionally stay up late to finish a project? You are cutting into your precious sleep time, affecting not only your ability to do your best work, but harming your health, your ability to lose weight, and your overall mood.

“We all think we’re super-duper beings, but none of it is true. We’re all biological beings with biological limits. Until we can grow extra heads and extra brains, that is what we can expect,” said Edward O’Malley, Norwalk Hospital Sleep Disorders Center.

Sleep researchers have found that productivity levels and creativity drop when we are tired. Your ability to focus weakens and your mind drifts. This impairs your judgment. You not only make mistakes, but you weaken your ability to weave thoughts together to be creative and to learn. You don’t think through options. You totally overlook something important.

Additionally, if you are not getting enough hours of sleep, your brain can neither process nor store the new information you received during the day. Therefore, you won’t have access to what your brain learns overnight.

Consider these tips:

  1. Set your time limits for working and answering emails, giving yourself a chance to relax at least two hours before you climb into bed.
  2. Watch mindless TV before you go to sleep. In one of my broadcasting classes in college, we were told there is great value in TV that doesn’t make you think too much. When you then go to sleep, your brain can work on what you learned during the day instead of worrying about what is going to happen next on Game of Thrones or the horror of events you saw on the news. If not TV, try reading a boring text book.
  3. If you have a project to complete go to bed at least an hour earlier than normal so you can wake up an hour before your regular time to complete it. 

How Much Sleep is Enough?

Millions of adults in the US are sleep-deprived, thinking they can live with less than 6 hours of sleep. Although there is no magic number for the amount of time you should sleep, the National Sleep Foundation suggests adults sleep for 7-9 hours a night to not only receive the full benefits of sleep, but to counteract the many effects of being sleep-deprived.

In his book, Sweet Thursdays, John Steinbeck wrote, “It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.” While we sleep, our brain has a chance to work through problems at a very deep level.

Your brain needs enough sleep to consolidate what happened during the day and then store what you learned into memory. Then when you wake up, you are better able to recall newly learned tasks quicker and more accurately.

Hopefully, you are not reading this post late at night. If you are, please shut off your computer and get a good night’s sleep!

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For more tips on how to more efficiently use your brain, check out www.outsmartyourbrain.com.

Marcia Reynolds, PsyD., is the author of two leadership books, The Discomfort Zone and Wander Woman. She is President of Covisioning, a leadership development and coaching firm.

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