The Incredible Importance of Sleep for Habits & Motivation

By Leo Babauta

For a long time, I underestimated the importance of sleep.

Sure, I know that sleep is important for health and happiness and all of that … but it wasn’t until I learned two things that sleep took on a new importance for me:

  1. If you don’t get enough sleep, you will fail at changing habits; and
  2. If you have a lack of sleep, your motivation will drop tremendously.

For years I focused on waking early so that I’d be more productive and be able to focus on my morning habits. But those two things were harmed by a lack of sleep.

I could cite a bunch of studies and numbers, but here’s the honest truth: based on my own self-experiments, and working with thousands of people on habits, sleep is one of the most important but least valued factors when it comes to creating habits.

And in my own life, I’ve noticed that when sleep levels drop, my productivity drops. My motivation to work on hard projects drops.

Here’s what happens:

This pattern continues until I get enough sleep. It takes a day or two to get back to where I should be.

I still do this from time to time, but I’ve learned this pattern the hard way from so many repetitions that I’m much better at getting sufficient sleep these days. And I’ve gotten better at recognizing the signals that I’m not getting enough sleep, soon enough that I can remedy the problem sooner.

How to Get Better Sleep

I’m not an expert on sleep, but here’s what I find to work for me:

If for some reason those things don’t work, I use this method (walk myself through my memories of the day in detail) to finally fall into the gentle embrace of sleep.

If you find yourself lacking motivation or having trouble changing any habits, check your sleep levels. It could be the factor that’s holding you back.