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Lawyers, Just How Important Is a Good Night's Sleep?

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. | Last updated on

Neither Barack Obama nor Donald Trump gets much sleep. Obama stayed up late into the night, working on speeches and reading briefing papers, before turning down for just about five hours. Our current president has him beat, sleeping just four hours every night, leaving plenty of time for early morning tweeting. And they're not alone. Plenty of highly successful people get by on just a few hours of sleep a night, from Martha Stewart to tech CEOs.

But they're not you. In fact, they may be mutants. (Really.) For most of us, a long, restful sleep is essential, and it could be the key not just to good health but to successful lawyering. Here's why.

You Need Your Shut Eye

We could all take a lesson from 2011's surprise bestselling children's book, "Go the F--- to Sleep." And by that, I mean we should all make sure to get a solid seven to eight hours a night.

There are a few reasons for this. One is health. Regularly sleeping less than seven hours a night can result in "adverse health outcomes, including weight gain and obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and stroke, depression and increased risk of death," according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Of course, if you cared so much about your health and wellbeing, you probably wouldn't be a lawyer. So, if an increased risk of death isn't enough to motivate you to head to bed, here's another: sleeping less than seven hours can make you a bad lawyer.

Sleep deprivation can significantly impact your cognitive abilities, according to numerous studies. Those without enough sleep have difficulty staying focused, retaining facts, and performing tasks. That's no good if you have a full day of demanding legal work ahead.

There's No Shortcut to Good Sleep

Think you can skimp and cram in just six hours, so you can get back to work earlier? You're wrong.

A recent sleep deprivation study showed that subjects who slept only six hours a night eventually performed as poorly as those who got no sleep whatsoever. After several days at six hours, the test subjects were performing as poorly as those pulling all nighters -- but, and perhaps this is worse, they were less likely to say they felt sleepy, even as their performance declined.

If you're one of those who say "oh, six hours is fine for me," you may just be fooling yourself.

So, resist the temptation to work into the wee hours, or to stay up late with a glass of whiskey or a Netflix binge. Go the f--- to sleep instead. You'll benefit from it in the long run.

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