Roughly one-third of us gets less than six hours of sleep a night. And new research shows that being chronically sleep-deprived can seriously affect your quality of life. Sleep specialist Patty Tucker says that regularly missing sleep hurts productivity, creativity and innovation Here’s how:  

  • First, it impairs learning, memory and critical problem-solving. A Stanford University study found that we need at least seven hours of sleep to rejuvenate our mind and body. That’s because the first four hours of sleep mostly deal with slow-wave sleep, which works to heal the body. But our brain doesn’t get priority until the second four hours, when REM sleep helps consolidate memory and learning.  

  • A lack of sleep also makes us less ethical and more likely to take financial risks. Sleep specialist Patty Tucker says it’s because tired people are more likely to be rigid and inflexible and to ignore new information and relevant details that might lead to better decision-making. And a study from Duke University found that sleep-deprived people are more likely to bet big bucks at a casino. Tired people tend to overestimate the potential payoffs and ignore the consequences. 

  • Finally, sleep-deprivation damages creativity and innovation. Studies show that dreaming during REM sleep boosts creative thinking and leads to more “aha moments.” For example, Paul McCartney says he wrote the hit Beatles song "Yesterday" after dreaming of the melody and immediately sitting down at the piano beside his bed. And writer Stephen King said the inspiration for his book Misery came from a dream. But in his case, maybe it was a nightmare.

So what's the remedy that will stop all of this from happening? Get at least six, preferably eight, hours of sleep every night. Go to sleep and get up at the same time every day, including on the weekends, and don't think that sleeping longer one day makes up for getting less sleep the day before.  Find out more about healthy sleep habits by searching for "sleep" at the top of this page.