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How much sleep do we need to be high performers?

Estimated reading time: 2 mins

There is so much conflicting research and evidence on this subject, so how can we know we’re getting the right amount?

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania studied over 120,000 people for eight years to discover the answer. Their conclusion is that people who are early-risers got far less sleep and it had an observable negative consequence on performance. They also concluded that 10am is a good time to start work. Get real! In a competitive environment, who can afford to come in at 10am? No – there has to be a way to find the balance between amount of sleep and getting into work at an acceptable time.

How much sleep do you need?

The answer depends on many variables, including your age, gender, fitness and genetics. Between 7 and 9 hours is the generally accepted number for adults. For high-performance, this is a very personal thing. For me, not enough sleep means that I don’t take in information very well and my concentration drops off. But then again, too much sleep has a similar effect. I am not a morning person, and will gladly keep on hitting the snooze button until mid-morning, yet I can still feel groggy.

What if you tried breaking your routine for a while? For example, why not try sleeping one extra hour for a whole week, and gauging the results? And then try sleeping one less hour than normal – what then?

How can we use a consistent measure?

elevate5How do we know if we are performing better today than yesterday? Our work might be varied, so it could be tough to get a like-for-like comparison. I tried using a brain-trainer, running the same test every day. There are loads of apps available – my favorite is Elevate Brain Training on my iPhone (also available on Android) – there are others like this available.

I wanted to use a consistent test throughout the experiment. Each morning, I would get up at the same time. The variable was what time I went to bed. I tested myself over 4 weeks, and in respective weeks I had 9 hours, 8 hours, 7 hours and 6 hours. After the same routine, I would get to work – the same way. Before I entered the office, I performed the tests.

Here’s what I found out:

  • Sleep 9 hours for 5 days: average score of 11,800
  • Sleep 8 hours for 5 days: average score of 12,600
  • Sleep 7 hours for 5 days: average score of 13,900
  • Sleep 6 hours for 5 days: average score of 10,400

About 7 hours seems to be the sweet spot for me to perform at my best. For you, it could be very different. The only way we really know is to test it out.

What about you?

Could this kind of test help you find out your ideal amount of sleep? Give it a try, and share your results by leaving a comment below, or starting a discussion in my Community Forums.

Additional Resources

 
This post is part 3 of 18 in the series Working & Living
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Simon is a creative and passionate business leader dedicated to having fun in the pursuit of high performance and personal development. He is co-founder of Applied Change, a Business Change consultancy based in the UK. Simon is also an Ambassador for Gloucestershire business. Simon is an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Professional Development.

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