There's ample evidence that getting less than seven hours of sleep per night will wreak havoc on your brain. But not everyone has the luxury of being able to sleep soundly through the night.
Take the president of the United States, says Michael Jaffee, the vice chair of the Department of Neurology at the University of Florida. It's not a position where crises can wait until morning. Campaigning for the office requires a certain amount of sleep deprivation too, Jaffee notes in a piece on The Conversation. And CEOs the world over have their own set of issues that keep them up at night.
Not getting sufficient sleep impairs a number of functions, including a person's ability to process information and recall facts and events. One of the only abilities that hasn't yet been proven to be associated with sleep deprivation is simple reasoning ability, writes Jaffee.
To be sure, some people can get by on four hours or so of sleep without suffering serious consequences. But researchers estimate that that's only about 1 percent of the population. So what to do when you can't get a restful night's sleep? Caffeine will help for a while, but here are some other hacks that past presidents (and other high-functioning executives) use to deal with sleep deprivation:
Jaffee writes that presidents John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush in particular liked to use brief afternoon naps to recharge in between meetings. The best power naps are between 20-30 minutes long, according to the National Sleep Foundation. If you sleep for any longer, you'll wake up feeling groggy.
According to a recent New York Times profile, President Obama's favorite nighttime snack is almonds. This particular choice is smart--any snacks that have simple sugars or carbs will cause your blood sugar levels to spike, and you'll crash later in the day. If you didn't get enough shut-eye last night, stick to snacks that contain whole grains or protein, according to Orfeu Buxton, a professor in the division of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Given that sleep deprivation affects your ability to process and recall information, use a little extra help to stay organized. Set an alarm or a reminder for important meetings. Keep any information that you'll need to refer to throughout the day organized into folders. Richard Branson, who gets about 5 to 6 hours of sleep a night, told Inc. in 2013 that he verbally dictates every email response to his assistant, so that she can make sure everything gets spelled correctly and doesn't sit in the drafts folder.
Weekends and vacations
This one might sound obvious but it bears mentioning since research suggests many Americans don't actually take the tome off they're given at work: Use your weekends and vacation to make up for your lack of sleep during the week. Lawrence Epstein, the author of The Harvard Medical Guide to a Good Night's Sleep, tells the Chicago Tribune that if you get 10 hours less than the average recommended amount of sleep in a week, you should sleep three to four extra hours on the weekend. Additionally, when you take an extended vacation, prioritize sleeping for as long as you can every night. That's how Mayer, who says that she only gets four to six hours of sleep a night, gets by. "I pace myself by taking a week-long vacation every four months," she told Fortune in 2006.
Finally, Jaffee says that the best way to ensure that your company keeps running smoothly is to reinforce to your employees the importance of getting a full seven to eight hours of sleep. You want key members of your team to be able to serve as your "organizing brain" and to make sound decisions when you're feeling sluggish. So even if you might be up working until the late hours of the night, but you don't encourage your team to do the same.