The benefits of a good night's sleep are well documented. But did you know that taking regular breaks during the day – including naps – can make you more productive?

Science proves what moms have always known: the power of a good night's sleep.

Having a bad day? Mom says, "Things will look better in the morning."

Need to make a big decision? Mom says, "Sleep on it."

So, as a busy adult with career, family, and school commitments who is always looking for more time in the day, it probably stresses you out when you read about yet another reason you should be getting more sleep.

  • Infections and disease: Sleep boosts your immune system, which is why when you're tired and run-down you're more likely to get sick.
  • Metabolism and weight: Not getting enough sleep can alter hormone levels and the way your body processes carbohydrates making make you more likely to gain weight.
  • High blood pressure: The risk of high blood pressure is greater among people who routinely slept less than six hours a night compared to those who sleep more.
  • Cardiovascular health: Studies have linked short-term sleep deprivation to risk factors for heart disease, including higher cholesterol levels.
  • Mood: Insufficient sleep can make you more irritable and inpatient.
  • Concentration and organization: Sufficient sleep enables you to concentrate better, be more organized, and make better decisions.
  • Sleep improves learning: During sleep, the brain commits new information to memory. Studies show that people who slept after learning something new did better on tests later.

How much sleep is best?

Tony Schwartz is a bestselling author, speaker, and CEO of The Energy Project, a company that helps individuals and organizations perform at their best. In his latest book, Be Excellent at Anything, he says that when it comes to sleep, "No single behavior more fundamentally influences our effectiveness in waking life. And while the average American sleeps between 6 and 6 1/2 hours a night, 95 percent of us require 7-8 hours to be fully rested."

So why don't we get enough sleep? Too much to do?

For many people, sleep is simply not a priority. Society values getting more done, and that means working continuously. Checking e-mail before bed. Taking a laptop on a family vacation. Spending more time working leads to less time for sleep – which experts say actually leads to less productivity and, eventually, burn out.

How to really get more done.

In a New York Times article, Schwartz wrote, "In most workplaces, rewards still accrue to those who push the hardest and most continuously over time. But that doesn't mean they're the most productive."

"'More, bigger, faster' is the ethos of the market economies since the Industrial Revolution. But it's grounded in a mythical and misguided assumption – that our resources are infinite."

The problem is that time – the resource we rely on to get more done – is finite.

So how do you get more done with only 24 hours in a day?

You increase your energy – a renewable resource.

"Paradoxically, the best way to get more done may be to spend more time doing less," wrote Schwartz. "A new and growing body of multidisciplinary research shows that strategic renewal – including daytime workouts, short afternoon naps, longer sleep hours, more time away from the office and longer, more frequent vacations – boost productivity, job performance and, of course, health."

Close your eyes for five minutes.

While some of Schwarz' recommendations may be somewhat challenging to implement right away, there's one you could probably start doing today.

Schwarz recommends taking a break every 90 minutes throughout the day.

"Just as we cycle through states of sleep at night, so we go through similar cycles every 90 minutes through the day, moving between periods of high energy, and then dipping down into lower energy."

A short nap between 1 and 3 can have a significant impact on your ability to focus later in the afternoon – even just leaning back in your chair for 5-10 minutes.

Consider it the first, baby step in in the battle to better manage your energy.

As Schwarz says, "By managing energy more skillfully, it's possible to get more done, in less time, more sustainably."

Improving Sleep
Harvard Women's Health Watch
Harvard Health Publication

What helps you be more productive each day?

Image Credit: N1NJ4 on Flickr/Creative Commons

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How To Be On Time: 7 No-Brainer Tips

Give It A Try--Unplug!