Be honest. Are you feeling a little sluggish right now? Slightly less focused than you'd like? Are visions of caffeine-laden lattes dancing in your head?
- Fall asleep the moment your head hits the pillow?
- Need an alarm clock to wake in the morning?
- Often feel drowsy while driving?
- Feel slow or frustrated when faced with critical thinking, problem solving and creative tasks?
If so, you're most likely not getting enough sleep. While your afternoon sluggishness may seem like a minor inconvenience--an honorable testament to the incredible entrepreneurial drive you possess--it is likely that your willpower is undermining your potential.
According to Dr. James Maas, author of Power Sleep, "Often we are totally unaware of our own reduced capabilities because we become habituated to low levels of alertness. Many of us have been sleep deprived for such a long time that we don't know what it's like to feel wide awake."
It's been reported that at least 50 percent of Americans are chronically sleep deprived. If a bit of sleep deprivation seems like par for the course to you, consider that even just a slight sleep deficit has proven to decrease cognitive functioning, including processing time, ability to perform complex tasks, creativity and memory, weight gain, loss of coping skills, increased anxiety and decreased immunity.
So, what are your nightly sleep needs? Maas recommends the following experiment:
1. Select a bedtime when you will be able to fall asleep easily. Try to make this bedtime at least eight hours before you need to wake up. Maintain that bedtime for a week and note the time you wake up. If, after a week, you need an alarm clock to rise or if you find yourself at all tired during the day, you haven't slept enough.
2. If you're not sleeping enough, keep your waking time constant and go to bed 15 to 30 minutes earlier for a week. Repeat an even earlier bedtime if, after a week, you still show signs of sleep deprivation.
3. Once you've established a correct bedtime, try cutting back by 15 minutes and track whether that produces feelings of daytime drowsiness.
Once you're able to wake without an alarm and no longer experience the daytime drowsiness that most of us assume to be natural, you have found your individual sleep requirement. Welcome to the land of the living!
But beware: Once you experience the productivity and creativity that is just waiting to jump out of that visionary mind of yours, you may begin to wonder what potential you were leaving untapped during all those years of sleep deprivation.
Kristin Wehner-Keffeler is the " Healthy & Wealthy " columnist at Entrepreneur.com and a consultant coach. She partners with entrepreneurs and business leaders to increase their impact and staying power by leveraging their health and the health of their employees as a business asset. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org .