As career women and working mothers we are juggling a lot! High pressure jobs, commuting, time with our partner, children’s homework and activities, exercise, meals, keeping up with household chores, finances, friends, extended family. Whew!

With the crazy work schedules of today’s world, and the increased pressure from companies to do more work with less people, it would be easy to get burned out.

We know we are supposed to take care of ourselves in order to be at our best, but time pressures and the multitude of things we need to do make it overwhelming. How do we perform at our best at work and at home? There are a number of activities that we can use to get to higher performance but which one is the best?

The answer:

The number one technique for increasing your performance is ——-> get 8 hours of sleep. No excuses!

Here’s why.

When we don’t get enough sleep, we know it. Our bodies are dragging and our minds are sluggish. Our mental sharpness and memory suffer. Consequently we don’t make good decisions, and we don’t see as many innovative solutions to issues, problems and situations that come up at work, or at home.

When we are tired we also stop doing other things that improve our performance, such as working out, eating nutritious food versus reaching for comfort food, and too easily get into a downward spiral. We ‘relax’ in front of the television, watching something mindless, instead of exercising, reading a book or taking a course that might develop our thinking and skills to the next level.

Study after study has shown the importance of getting 8 hours of sleep; but we don’t do it. Why?

Partly we’ve been seduced by the lie that really successful people can get by on very few hours of sleep. It’s almost become a badge of honor that people brag about. Instead of being appalled, we think it’s necessary to become superheroes, just like them, in order to be successful. Somehow, if we get enough sleep, we must be lazy and not worthy of success.

Partly, we are disorganized, overwhelmed, and running in twenty different directions at the same time because we have forgotten how to say “NO” and have taken on too much. We don’t know how to let go of our own expectations of ourselves, as able to “have it all” if we only try harder. We can’t. Set boundaries!

So how can we make sure we get 8 hours of sleep?

Here are 12 tips for prioritizing sleep, so that you can get back on track and achieve higher levels of performance in all areas of your life.

  1. Set a routine bedtime at which you will be in bed and going to sleep.
  2. Work out how long it takes you to get ready for bed and set an alarm on your phone to go off that many minutes before your bedtime. When the alarm goes off, stop what you are doing and get ready for bed.
  3. You know that TV screens, computers, laptops, tablets and phones give off light that stimulates your brain, and that you are supposed to stop looking at screens at least one hour before bed. So STOP! Set an alarm on your phone, one hour before bedtime, and when it goes off, you are done, stop working, and get off Facebook. Done.
  4. Don’t feel that you have to finish cleaning up, washing, tidying etc. Your sleep is more important that whether your house is a little dusty for a few days. Set a time aside on the weekend to address the things that you feel must be done.
  5. Make sure you drink a glass of water before bed. It’s estimated that over 75% of us are dehydrated. Being dehydrated can actually cause you to wake up in the middle of the night.
  6. Don’t drink alcohol too close to bedtime. You may fall asleep faster, but you won’t sleep as deeply, and may find yourself either waking up in the middle of the night, or waking up not feeling refreshed.
  7. Take a walk. Walking outside when it is cool and quiet can help you wind down and calm your mind.
  8. Read a book or magazine, take a bath, and/or drink a soothing, herbal tea, or warm milk drink.
  9. Try a repetitive craft such as knitting that you don’t have to think too much about. Sitting and using repetitive hand movements like this can be as calming as meditation.
  10. Meditate, write a gratitude journal, or create some other routine that ceremonially marks the end of the busy day. It will signal to your brain that it’s time to quiet down.
  11. Set a cool, but not cold, bedroom temperature, get blackout drapes, and cover, or switch off any light sources. Studies show that we sleep better in true darkness, and all the lights from clocks and other electronic devices can have a big effect on our sleep quality.
  12. Try a natural, non-addictive, sleep aid.

Try one, two or more of these tips and see which ones work best for you.

A number of high profile women, such as Ariana Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post, have actually collapsed on the job from exhaustion, due to not prioritizing sleep. Thankfully, Ariana took note and changed her focus, and now leads the charge to make sleep a priority. Don’t wait until you literally collapse or destroy your health. Make sleep a priority now and reap the benefits of increased performance and productivity!