Struggling to find the best solution to your latest career condundrum? Too tired to articulate yourself fully through a new cover letter? Grumpy with your job? The simplest resolution may begin with a good night's sleep...And if it isn't better in the morning, consider the alternatives.

As a career counselor and coach, I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking, reading, and writing about work. Every so often, I also think about the importance of sleep. One of the statistics that has always fascinated me is that of the effects of sleep deprivation. Are you aware that the effects of sleep deprivation have been proven to have as much of a negative impact on reaction time as alcohol?

I've always been fascinated by restrictions imposed on "mission critical" professions to reduce the possibility of errors: from truck drivers and air traffic controllers, to medical residents and engineers. In the U.S., truck drivers are prohibited from driving more than 11 hours at a stretch, but medical residents in hospitals are frequently asked to work a shift of 24 hours at a time (this decreased from a previous shift of 30 hours in 2003). To me, this makes no sense at all: in both professions, the lives of others literally depend on one's ability to remain alert. Why is it that we think medical doctors can and should stay up later than truck drivers?

This weekend's train accident in L.A. reminded me of this simple restriction: preliminary results indicate that the accident could be the result of an oversight by a less-than-alert engineer with a sound track record. According to one news account, a potential cause of the crash which will be investigated is engineer fatique: in California, engineers are limited to 12 hours a day running a train, although that can be broken up over a stretch as long as 18 hours. Tim Smith, California state chairman of a union representing engineers and conductors, describes the impact of being perpetually "on"

"Doing that for five or six days in a row, you have the cumulative fatigue factor that becomes a real bear," he said.

If it were up to me, "rest hour" would be a mandatory part of the work day--I'm always amazed at how refreshed I feel by a short nap. Conversely, the most challenging times I've ever encountered with my day job have occurred during periods when I've allowed myself little time for sleep. Coincidence? I don't think so...

In sum, your next career success could start simply with rest!

To Your Success,


(P.S. This post was all about sleep, but leaving space in your life to pursue interests and having fun is equally important. A recent poll by RiseSmart found that the average job seeker spends 50 hours a month online. When you consider that an estimated 60-80% of job offers come from networking--there's something to be said from simply getting out there!)