Everybody is different in terms of precisely how much sleep they need. But in general, most of us don't do very well on 4 or 5 hours in Dreamland. (I'm the perfect example--I got up at 3:45 a.m. for a year and decided I'd rather eat glass.) So why do we do it? Why do we keep pushing our physical limits, exhausting ourselves? These are the big hurdles, I think, that rob us of a good night's rest.

1. You're flat out scared.

What will the boss think if you don't answer that email at 10:00 p.m. or walk through the door before the sun is up? How will your house function if you don't put that laundry away? How can you go to bed when you haven't exercised yet and your insurance premium only gets a break if you log workouts through your employer? We feel the pressure of expectation, and as we compare ourselves, we imagine disaster.

The fix:

  • Communicate clearly with others about your boundaries and abilities. Make sure the lines don't shift.
  • Negotiate for more reasonable deadlines.
  • Delegate tasks where possible or hire help for the most overwhelming jobs.
  • Make planning a team effort. Ask others how everyone can work together to make the burden lighter on everyone. Clarify both needs and goals during the planning process.
  • Talk openly with those around you to get a more accurate picture of what they're going through. They likely are in the same boat you are.

2. You want a break.

You've probably stared at your computer screen or buzzed away on a project for more than the standard 8 hours. Then you come home and there are chores and home responsibilities (especially if you have children). Where is the time to be truly you? You grab the video game controller, binge on Facebook and Netflix or dive into a hobby, just to unwind. Too bad you're unwinding close to midnight.

The fix:

  • Use all the strategies from above AND
  • Schedule small breaks for yourself through the day. Put them on your calendar so you're more likely to actually take them and people know you're not available. Don't use the breaks for technology.
  • Ask for projects that better align with your personality or interests.
  • Get more organized. You might be able to finish jobs earlier and enjoy more downtime because of it.
  • Be realistic about both your goals and the time necessary for tasks. Time what you do if you have to, but get a sense of the requirement so you don't paint yourself into a corner later on.

3. You have conflicting goals.

Even if you work decent hours and don't feel tons of pressure to do as much as (or more than) the next person, you might feel entirely fulfilled by the other ways you're spending time during the day. For example, maybe you do computer programming by day but dream of exhibiting art at a gallery. So you burn the candle at both ends trying to build your art portfolio after work. Trying to set up a new business you're passionate about while holding down a current job to take care of your family is a familiar sleep-robbing issue for many entrepreneurs.

The fix:

  • Use all the strategies from above AND
  • Define the "why" behind each goal. The "why" that adheres most closely to your core values likely is the better choice.
  • Clarify the risks of saying no to one goal or the other, even if temporarily. Make sure those risks are real rather than imagined so you don't put unnecessary pressure on yourself.
  • Create blocks of time for jobs rather than trying to multitask.

I'm not going to tell you to sleep eight hours if you feel great on six. What I will tell you is that you'll achieve more and be the best you if you quiet your mind enough to get the rest that's adequate for you. Use the outline above, get some peace and finally use your pillow the way you should.