What your brain does ONLY when you are sleeping.

Have you ever woken up with the answer to a problem that nagged you the night before?  It’s like your brain worked on it while you were sleeping or something!  Guess what – it did!

Many people – especially ambitious, successful people – subscribe to the false belief that if they sleep less they will achieve more.  Yet there is a growing body of research proving that a good night’s sleep is essential to a productive day.

While sleep is often associated with giving rest to the body, recent research shows that sleep is really more about the brain!  While we sleep our brains are hard at work encoding and restructuring information.  Therefore, when we wake up our brains may have made new neural connections, thereby opening up a broader range of solutions to a problem, literally overnight!

In a fascinating TED MED Talk, Jeff Iliff tells us how, while we are asleep – and only then – the brain, in a process totally different from the rest of the body, actually clears away all the toxins that have accumulated in it during the day while it was hard at work.  I posted the link to this incredible TED Talk on the Resources page of my web site for those of you who are interested in learning more.

In a Harvard Business Review article, called “Sleep Deficit:  The Performance Killer”, Professor Charles Czeisler explains how sleep-deprivation undermines high performance.  Professor Czeisler states that pulling an all-nighter or having a week of just 4-5 hours of sleep a night “induces an impairment equivalent to a blood alcohol level of .1%.  Think about that!   We would never say “This person is a great worker!  He’s drunk all the time!”

Some good news for the early birds and night owls among us:  science shows that even a nap can increase creativity.  Recently, I had a late night and very early morning.  Later that day I had to drive for about 3 hours later to a meeting.  I became so tired I had a hard time focusing so I pulled into a Rest Area and within minutes was sound asleep – actually dreaming!  20 minutes later I woke up feeling alert and rested.  I was able to contribute to the meeting in a way I never would have been able to without that cat nap!

In a nutshell, sleep allows us to operate at our highest level of contribution so we can actually achieve more in less time.

So here is my tip for all my sleep deprived viewers!  Systematically and deliberately build sleep into your schedules so you can do more, achieve more and explore more each and every day.

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