Our times advent the start of “Performance debate”, a debate which orbits  the understanding of human performance, factors affecting it, structures influencing it and whats and what nots. Stress management is one off shoot speciality of Human performance.  We all experience some level of stress most days. We know that a certain amount of stress can make us more productive. Unfortunately most of us are more familiar with the bad type of it: headaches, irritability, lack of patience with colleagues and family, loss of focus and productivity, too much junk food, weight gain or loss, nails bitten to the quick. We all know what we’re supposed to do to reduce stress: Get more sleep. Exercise regularly. Avoid too much caffeine and alcohol. Set priorities. Work more efficiently. Plan ahead. And yet we’re more stressed out than ever, and our personal energy is tanking.

Say you decide to fast, and so you effectively starve yourself for some time. How would you feel? Hungry, perhaps a little weak, and almost certainly somewhat thinner. But basically you’d be fine. Now let’s say you deprive yourself of sleep for a week. Not good. After several days, your ability to function will start taking the toll. Amnesty International regards sleep deprivation as a form of extreme torture. People who have gone through this form of torture report that the desire for sleep is so big that not even hunger and thirst can be compared with it.

Then why is sleep one of the first things we’re willing to sacrifice as the demands in our lives keep rising? We continue to live and believe a durable myth: one hour less sleep will give us one more hour of work and productivity. In reality, the research suggests that even small amounts of sleep deprivation take a remarkable toll on our health, mood, cognitive capacity and productivity. Surprisingly many of these effects are invisible.

Many of the effects we suffer are invisible. Insufficient sleep, for instance, deeply impairs our ability to consolidate and stabilize learning that occurs during the waking day. In other words, it wreaks havoc on our memory.

So how much sleep do you need? In a study researchers put subjects in environment without clocks or windows and they were to sleep any time they felt like, a vast majority(95 percent) slept between seven to eight hours out of every 24. Another 2.5 percent sleep more than eight hours. That means just 2.5 percent of us require less than 7 hours of sleep a night to feel fully rested. That’s 1 out of every 40 people.

When I ask people in my practice how many had fewer than 7 hours of sleep several nights during the past week, the vast majority raise their hands. That’s true whether it’s an audience of corporate executives, teachers, police officers or government workers. We’ve literally lost touch with what it feels like to be fully awake.

Great performers are an exception. Typically, they sleep significantly more than the rest of us. In fact they say they need it. In a study of musicians, the top performers slept an average of 8 ½ hours out of every 24, including a 20 to 30 minute mid afternoon nap some 2 hours a day more than the average American. They also said that besides practice, sleep was second most important factor in their success.

With sufficient sleep, people feel better, focus better, and manage emotions better, which is good for everyone. Having a single day without enough sleep is a problem, because the impact is immediate and unavoidable.

Lastly tips to handle sleep well:

• Going to bed earlier and setting a time for that really helps. It takes the focus away from many other things that can come in the way of sleep. Failure to do so results in you finding ways to stay up later.

• Refrain from eating a large meal or drink lots of fluids right before bed. Alcohol, cigarettes, coffee etc. will only add to the problem.

• Computers, mobile phones etc are a big “NO”. Studies show that using these gadgets can actually deprive us of sleep chemical melatonin.

• Writing down a To Do list for the day ahead and what on your mind helps. If you leave items in your working memory, chances are that you ‘ll find it harder to sleep and those things will keep roaming inside your head.

• The sleep environment is important, if it is too cold or hot, loud or high in light, it will result in you struggling with sleep.

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