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Sleeping Your Way to Productivity: How Much Sleep is Enough?

How much sleep does it take to be productive? The importance of sleep and the top things you can do to help get the sleep you need.

You may have heard that we need 7-9 hours of sleep to function properly, and how it’s important for our mental and physical health. But how much sleep do you really need to boost your productivity?

In this article, we’ll give you a breakdown of how much sleep is enough according to your age, how this affects your motivation levels, and how it can impact performance at work.

The importance of sleep

We know that sleep is important for our mental and physical health, but how does this affect productivity and how much sleep is enough?

Numerous scientific studies show how insufficient sleep negatively impacts the brain’s ability to function. It can cause impaired judgement, lack of focus or attention, slow reaction times – all things that are essential in performance at work.

These negative impacts could be a disaster in some workplaces (think construction)  but how about for an accountant who works with numbers all day, or a teacher working in the classroom?

Wherever you work, it’s clear that a lack of sleep will affect your performance.

Sleeping at computer desk

How much sleep is enough to work productively?

Now that we’ve established how sleep affects work performance, how much sleep is enough?

Here are some general guidelines to follow:

  • Teenagers (13-19 years old): Sleep should be between eight and ten hours per night.
  • Adults (20+): Seven to nine hours of sleep is recommended. Studies show that people who sleep less than seven hours can become grumpier, unfocused and tired.
  • Elderly (65+): Sleep needs are very individual – how much you need will depend on how well your body metabolizes the hormone melatonin.

If you find that after getting enough sleep, it still takes a long time to feel energized,  you could have a health or sleep disorder that should be checked by your doctor.

In the end how much sleep do you really need to boost productivity levels?

It varies from person to person, but it’s clear how lack of sleep can affect work performance. So if you’re only getting five hours per night, try increasing this gradually until you notice a change in your productivity at work.

Top 5 tips to help you get the sleep you need

Take a look at your schedule

One of the major reasons why people don’t get enough sleep is that they feel they have too many things to do. Couple this with stress about the work they do, money matters, or other life stressors and you have a recipe for disaster.

It’s a cycle where they can’t get enough work done because they’re not sleeping enough and they’re not sleeping enough because they feel they have soo much work to do!

Taking a closer look at how you spend your day, and how much time is actually spent doing work can help. Your productivity makes a big difference when it comes to sleep and improving how productive your workday is can ensure you don’t fall into the sleep debt cycle.

person holding a cup of matcha tea

Develop a sleep ritual

Going to bed at the same time every night, and waking up at the same time every morning is how you establish a sleep ritual. It keeps your body on track with both sleep patterns and internal functions like metabolism which will help improve how efficiently it recovers from stressors.

Your brain also works better when it follows a routine! It’s no surprise then that the most successful people on the planet (think Richard Branson, Bill Gates, and Jeff Bezos) follow routines. It’s these routines whether they include exercise, prioritization of tasks, a cup of coffee, etc that done consistently lead to successful outcomes.

Having wind-down time at night is important, and will help you sleep better! This could include things like taking a warm bath, reading fiction (and not non-fiction work-related material), or practising mindfulness.

Make rest and relaxation a priority

Talking about mindfulness, rest and relaxation are key to better sleep and being more productive. Taking some time to meditate, practice self-care, and do the things you love will leave you feeling more fulfilled in life and as a result less stressed, less stress = better sleep.

It’s also very easy for our homes to become filled with work materials or distractions that keep us from sleeping well! If you work from home – as so many of us do now – you should try your best to separate your workspace from your living space. This will help to balance how you work and how you relax leading to better sleep.

lady doing yoga productivity

Exercise each day

As mentioned above how much sleep you need will depend on how well your body metabolizes the hormone melatonin, exercise is a great way to ensure this happens.

Exercising for at least 30 minutes per day can help keep our bodies healthy and consequently better equipped to deal with stressors like work deadlines or problems with family members. It’s also a great way to burn off stress!

If you’re finding it hard to fit in exercise during the workday, start by taking your lunch break outside. This can help improve how well you sleep and make exercising a bit easier too.

Eat healthily

Finally, how you eat can make a big difference to how well you sleep. Try avoiding stimulants like caffeine or nicotine after 12 pm or 1 pm; these will keep your body more active than it needs to be at night which is the opposite of what we’re trying to achieve! Caffeine has been shown to last about 5 hours in healthy individuals but for up to 9.5 hours depending on sensitivity. What this means is that if you stop drinking coffee at around noon, you’re not going to have to fight against the stimulating effects of caffeine while trying to go to sleep.

Having sugar right before bed is another thing that should definitely be avoided because it has been shown to lead to more intense dreams which will interrupt sleep.

In addition, how you eat can affect how well you metabolize caffeine so if you’re going for a coffee or tea after lunch – have it with milk rather than sugar/creamer! This is because the proteins in dairy products bind to some of the stimulating compounds found in coffee and tea.

Having a healthy diet will also help how well you sleep so try adding foods like blueberries, tofu, yogurt, almonds, bananas, chamomile tea to your day!

Make sleep a priority

If you only take away one thing from this post, remember how important sleep really is to your productivity. Even if you have a million things to get done, it’s still more productive and better for your health, in the long run, to prioritize getting enough sleep!

If you’re finding that even after prioritizing rest and relaxation you’re having trouble sleeping; try speaking with your doctor about the best options for how to improve your sleep.

If you follow these tips to get your sleep back on track – and find yourself feeling more relaxed, focused and motivated at the same time – then congratulations! You’ve just found how much sleep is enough for peak productivity levels.


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