Today’s post is the feature article  from the June 2004 issue of  The Front Porch Newsletter.  If you would like to automatically receive The Front Porch e-newsletter on the last Thursday of each month just click here to sign-up for your complimentary subscription.

blumbergface1You’re getting very sleepy! Is that the voice of a hypnotist or the voice in your own brain? Let’s get this clear from the very start. Those who know me well, would tell you that I have NO credibility in writing this article. Absolutely none. Zip. Unless being one of the worst offenders gives you the right to talk about it! We are talking about sleep — and making sleep a priority.

Sleep is probably not a topic you will read about in many, if any, business books or newsletters. But with sleep depravation surpassing DUI as the number one cause of auto accidents, it is the silent killer. And it is also the silent killer of productivity, creativity and possibly even relationships. So, it is certainly worth talking about and thinking about in the workplace!

What happens if you try running your car on an empty tank of gas? It will stop and you can’t do a thing about it — except to fill it back up. Unfortunately your body is not quite so abrupt. It will run on empty for quite a while — long enough for you to cause it damage. As with most medical research, you will find some differing opinions in the details, but you will certainly find a common theme — – sleep is important! And our Front Porch readers totally agreed in last month’s survey. Everyone — 100% agreed that sleep is important to your health and productivity. Almost 60%, however, admitted that they do not make sleep a priority in planning their schedule.

An often misconceived perception it that sleep is about resting your body. This is true, but it is mostly about restoring your brain! No wonder sleep depravation diminishes your ability to think clearly, quickly and creatively. No wonder it can make you irritable and curt with others. And no wonder it can make you less flexible, tolerant and understanding. It’s because you aren’t using your brain — well, at least, not all of it. We often term lack of sleep as “burning the candle at both ends”. This is supposed to draw a picture of something that is not very smart — but is often worn as a badge of commitment. The problem is that your commitment just might be killing you — or at least making you less valuable in the workplace. The invention of the light bulb probably gave birth to the modern version of sleep depravation. And the advancement of technology may be putting the final nail in the coffin of sleep prioritization!

On average, 74% percent of our readers get 6-7 hours of sleep a night. Equally, 13% responded that they averaged 8-9 hours or 4-5 hours. There were no sleepy-head responses of 10 hours or more or any walking zombies at less than 4 hours! Get in line to brush your teeth, if you are in the majority of the 50% who call 11pm their bedtime. If you are up past 11pm, only 10% of the readers are up with you. Almost half our readers indicated they sometimes feel sleepy during the day — while another 20% often feel sleepy. Watch out! 22% of them have fallen asleep while driving (which is actually significantly lower than the national average!). Research would show that not only is the historically recommended 8-hours of sleep still valid, but that a consistent sleep pattern is also important. 80% of our readers generally keep the same pattern on “work nights”, but 60% change this pattern on the weekends.

The car stops. The body eventually gets sick. The problem for most of us is that we simply don’t make sleep a priority. Fortunately, this is not a hard one to fix. You already know how to go to sleep! You just have to make it a priority. Oh, I know — we can think of a million excuses! I could share my own endless list, but I figure you already have enough of those! When your car is running out of gas, you don’t care what is on your schedule. YOU STOP and fill it up — and you do it so you can get where you want to go. Ultimately sleep is no different. Isn’t it time we focused on it for what it’s worth?

Action Idea: Set sleep goals for this next month and make it a priority. Take 15 minutes and learn some more about the importance of sleep. Check out a wide-range of information at www.sleepfoundation.org . If you have trouble falling asleep, go to the website of my friends, Tim and Ryan O’Neil www.pianobrothers.com and order their Sweet Dreams piano lullabies CD. In just a few minutes you will be sleeping like a baby!