Sleep can be one of the most restorative, magical, or allusive things we do each day. When you sleep well, you feel like you can take on the world. When you sleep poorly, everything else that happens that day can be affected by it. If you’re in a rut at work, feeling like you’re not getting enough sleep or are just simply burnt out, it might be time to take a look at your day. When you sleep and your most productive working hours don’t have to be at odds. By making a few mental shifts, you’ll be able to get the sleep you need and harness your most productive hours.

The sleep challenge

The average adult requires between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. Even the busiest adults, those with multiple jobs, small children, night shifts, or long commutes, for example, will usually average seven to nine hours over the course of the week. While there may be two days that week they only got four or five, chances are, they will hit eight hours later in the week or on the weekend. Try and think of your sleep patterns for the whole week. Not just your busiest days or your days off. An easy way to do this is to track when you go to bed and when you wake up for a couple of weeks. This might be eye-opening for a couple of reasons. Either you actually get a lot more or a lot less sleep than you think you do. Either way, you’ll need to acknowledge the real times and numbers here before you can start to make some much-needed changes.

There are many factors that can play into why you feel as though you’re not sleeping enough. First of all, there may be some factors outside of your control such as small children, health issues, or time-sensitive obligations such as school, night-shifts or in the case of having more than one job. Take a look at what you can’t control and make a mental note to take these into consideration when you go about making your new sleep plan.

The easier factors to consider are the ones we can control. Things like, TV habits, evening meals, caffeine or alcohol intake, social events, and mindless screen time are all known culprits of sleep deprivation. While some of these affect some people more than others, if you find yourself out late at night during the week drinking with friends, it shouldn’t be that hard to deduce that it’s to blame for you hitting snooze five times and being late for work. If you lie in bed at 9 PM just to scroll through social media until 12 AM, you shouldn’t be that surprised you’re tired when your toddler wakes up at the crack of dawn.

Knowing what is factoring into the hours of sleep you’re getting is key to making a change. Time management expert Laura Vanderkam ( talks extensively about the power of time tracking and knowing where you’re time is going. Once you’ve really thought about what your day and night look like, you can then focus on what feels the most natural to you. If you’re productive early in the morning, use that time wisely. If you do your best in the afternoon, then make that work for you. Make your day work best for you.

Making the shift

Sleep expert and author of The Power of When, ( Michael Breus categorizes the different types of sleepers into four animal personas. He’s chosen bears, lions, wolves, and dolphins to describe different sleep personality and offers up times when each group is likely most productive.

If you’re able to look at when you’ve woken up and when you’ve gone to bed over the span of a couple of weeks, now it’s time to think about your workday. If you’re coming in late, reaching for caffeine in the afternoon or staying up later at night to work, maybe you need to shift what you traditionally thought of as your most productive working hours. If you have a lot of energy in the morning and tend to trail off later in the afternoon, then harness that. Wake up at 5 AM and instead of working out, open up your computer and start getting some quality work done.

While this doesn’t apply to all professions, it doesn’t have to be computer work you do at this time. Do something else productive that you never seem to have the energy for later. If you do have work you can do at home, get it started earlier in the day. Now, when you go into the office, or when your children start to wake up, you’ve already banged out a significant amount of work. When 2 PM hits and your brain is fried, this is the time to do that workout you didn’t do in the morning. Go for a run, take a group fitness class or just get out and run an errand. Once you’ve gotten your workout in, you’ll come back feeling refreshed and with a new readiness to take on the rest of the afternoon.

These same shifts can be made to your bedtime routine as well. If you are constantly feeling tired, it’s probably time to go to bed earlier. Mindlessly looking at social media or watching TV isn’t doing you any good. Gradually start cutting these activities earlier and earlier each night until you’ve hit your ideal amount of sleep. This will also help make the shift not seem so drastic. Going to sleep earlier can also help with what we discussed earlier in terms of outside factors. Now if you have kids that wake up early, you’ll have gotten enough sleep and you’ll better be able to handle waking up before the sun.