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Sleeping for high performance

February 2022

Is it time for the legal profession to talk seriously about sleep? For a long time, there has been a culture at commercial law firms that sees sleep as an optional extra. Lawyers love to see the “all-nighter” as a badge of honour and expressions such as “sleeping is cheating” abound. The Japanese even have the expression inemuri which glorifies working yourself to exhaustion so that you fall asleep at your desk.

However, drawing a red line that you must always have your “statutory eight hours” of sleep every night as a lawyer working in the City of London is just not realistic. Client demands are not getting any more relaxed and deadlines continue to be shortened as people fear “missing the window” or whatever other justification is currently being used to try and fit a quart into a pint pot in time terms. There will inevitably be times when lawyers will need to limit their sleep to deliver for their clients and this has always been the case: it goes with the territory, and we all know that.

Therefore, lawyers tend to shrug their shoulders and accept that their lot in life means that sleep suffers all the time. That is fatalistic as it is not an either/or equation, there are things that can be done to improve sleep even when under pressure. Even when there is no need to burn the candle at both ends, many lawyers still choose to cannibalise their sleep, prioritising other things over rest and recovery, because of the misguided belief that they can use their sleep time to be more productive or that they need to “relax” before trying to sleep by watching another episode of Netflix or looking at whatever App is on their smartphone.

We all sleep, in fact we spend nearly one-third of our lives asleep. Even though many years throughout our lives are spent sleeping, few people think about their sleep or consider whether they could be sleeping better. Sleep is essential. Sleep is a basic biological need. Alongside food, water, heat, and physical activity, sleep plays a vital role in maintaining health, wellbeing, and performance. Sleep is so important that we cannot consciously control sleep onset. When hungry and thirsty, you can abstain from food and water, but not from sleep. When tired enough, you will sleep.

Researchers have consistently shown that devaluing and replacing sleep with non-essential activities results in diminished health and wellbeing, but more importantly for elite professionals, on performance. Chronic sleep deprivation is related to long-term illnesses, including heart disease and cancer. That is why lawyers need to take this topic more seriously than they currently do.

We would encourage all lawyers to educate themselves on this topic given its important and at LTN & Partners we have partnered with a sleep specialist to run a course that looks beyond simple sleep hygiene and considers how you can optimise sleep when opportunities for sleep are not optimal, or the stress of work and life gets in the way. The course will give access to the latest cutting-edge scientific research and strategies used by mission-critical teams such as UK special forces and we would invite you to attend.

To discuss this type of training please contact

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