The importance of a good night's sleep can't be exaggerated. Your performance can only be at its best with sufficient quality sleep. No matter how little time you have, cutting back on sleep should not be an option because it will cost you more time due to the many mistakes you start making when suffering from lack of sleep or sleep apnea.

Lack of sleep

Having too little sleep can cause a whole range of problems. The strange thing is that you might not even notice them at the time. For example, if you work through the night and just keep going on the next day, you won't feel tired or lacking in sleep. You'll think you're awake and feel active. But the truth is that you're not awake. Your mind is making the silliest mistakes that you'd never make normally (like forgetting passwords that you use every day) and your reaction speed and concentration go into a kind of sleep of their own. Another thing that happens, is your tolerance of stress goes right down. This means, something that would normally not affect you emotionally, will now make you go crazy with worry, anger or impatience depending on what it is. This is why it is so important to get enough sleep before an important event. Because if you don't, you'll get far more nervous and anxious than you would normally.

How much sleep do you need?

This varies from person to person but the typical range is around 6 to 9 hours a day. What is important, is that you find a regular sleep pattern. Wherever possible, you should go to bed and get up at the same times every day. Our bodies and minds adjust to such regularity and use the sleep more efficiently. If you have a very regular sleep pattern, chances are you'll need less sleep than somebody who has an erratic sleep pattern.

Sleep better and deeper

If you have a hard time sleeping well or suffer from insomnia then you should consult a doctor. There are methods for treating this with drugs and/or with therapy. One such method is to reduce the amount of time allocated for sleeping to a minimal amount and gradually stepping it up under supervision until it reaches normal sleeping hours.

Typical things that prevent you from falling asleep are:

Consuming anything that has caffeine in it, such as coffee, cola, black and green tea. Salt also raises your blood pressure and that could also make it harder to sleep. If you go to bed while in an excited emotional state it'll be very hard to fall asleep. In such situations its better to wind down with a book or something before attempting to go to sleep.

Some tips on sleeping

Learn to switch off your active thoughts. This takes discipline but it can be learned. I don't mean counting sheep (that's a terrible trick). I mean letting go of trying to control what you think. Don't try to stop thinking entirely, just let your thoughts wander by themselves so to speak. Let your thoughts take you for a ride rather than you trying to direct them. You can tell its working when you're moving from one topic to another constantly and almost 'mindlessly'. But as soon as you ask yourself questions like "what do I do about such and such?" or "what's the time?", you're controlling your thoughts again and that will stop you from sleeping. Some people say they fall asleep best when they just don't care if they sleep or not.

There are conflicting opinions on whether to keep the room totally dark or not. I tend towards recommending to keep the room dark. One thing I'm sure about is if you do have any light, it had better be constant and not flickering or blinking. The same is true for sound.

Sleeping is also a habit. If you're used to sleeping alone, then having someone join you is hard to handle at first but, in time, you get used to it. Likewise, if you share your bed with someone, then sleeping alone can be quite scary if you're not used to it.

Siesta – afternoon rest

Most working people don't get a chance to have a siesta. But if you do, I recommend it. It doesn't need to be long. Half an hour could be enough and it can be great for your productivity afterward. Try it and you'll see how much better you can perform afterward. Also, you might find that you can easily go on until late at night without loosing concentration. Many great thinkers took a siesta every day.