There’s a fine balance that we all try to maintain between reaching our goals and maintaining our health. In particular, I constantly battle with the desire to keep doing more versus letting myself go to bed and sleep.
While the role of sleep in people is not fully understood (surprisingly), there are aspects about sleep that researchers have studied extensively. One of those areas is the impact of sleep on cognitive function. As you may already know anecdotally, less sleep generally leads to poorer function. Whether that is on performance on tests, physical activity levels, ability to communicate, or even willpower, pretty much everything starts to degrade when we’re working on reduced sleep.
One of the other areas that sleep affects is creativity. The ability to think creatively and respond to your environment in ways beyond your typical train of thought is severely impacted when you lack adequate sleep.
I have noticed this effect on my work both at home and in the office. If I miss a few hours for just a day or two, my creativity and overall productivity are cut dramatically. It is amazing how much harder it is to develop new business strategies or even just write a few sentences when I’m sleep deprived.
So, what do we do about it? It’s easy to say “get more sleep”, but honestly I don’t think most people go through life saying, “I want to be sleep deprived”.
In reality, life gets in the way, and we’re forced to prioritize what we think is important versus what we have time for. In some cases we need all of the time we can get. But in most cases, it’s more about being effective with the time we do have.
My friends all know me as the guy who can fall asleep at the blink of an eye, but even still I sometimes fight to stay awake long after I should have been asleep, just to keep working a little more. Even knowing that it’s not in my best interests.
I follow a simple methodology for deciding whether or not to keep pushing forward or to call it a night. If something is time critical, I stay up. If I just have this burst of creativity and need to let it out in some form, I stay up. If what I’m working on has the potential to dramatically change the world for myself or those closest to me, I stay up.
Anything else, I go to bed and work on it tomorrow.
Chances are I’ll be able to pick it up and come back even more creative after some sleep.