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Lisa Earle McLeod: Don’t abuse your best asset

How many times do you need a hit of caffeine or sugar just to get through the day?

If you have a day job, you’re probably well-acquainted with exhaustion at the office. Forty-two percent of people are getting by on less than six hours of sleep a night. In many corporations, the numbers are even worse.

Many people like to boast they only need six hours of sleep of night, but human history and science says otherwise. Before Thomas Edison’s invention of the electric light in 1879, most people slept 10 hours each night, a duration that scientists have just recently discovered is ideal for optimal performance. Albert Einstein said he needed 10 hours of sleep to function well.

If Einstein needed 10 hours to be at his optimal performance, what happens to a leader who only gets six?

How can you make good decisions when you’re exhausted?

The simple answer is: You can’t.

That’s where the caffeine and sugar come in. When we’re exhausted, we instinctively reach for something that will help us get through the next hour. The urgent – stay awake to lead the meeting – takes priority over the long-term implications for our health.

Next thing you know, Diet Coke and M&M’s aren’t just staples of your diet, they’re the backbone of your business. Meg Haworth, holistic psychologist and nutrition strategist, said, “I hear it over and over again; the main reason it happens is that people don’t plan.”

I’m certainly guilty. Lack of sleep, poor nutrition, late-night flights, over the years I’ve expected a lot from my body. As I age, she’s starting to act like that girlfriend who is sick and tired of being taken for granted. “You can’t just call me in the middle of the night and expect me to wake up and do your bidding. I have needs too you know.”

Athletes and entertainers know that their success depends on optimal health. As a businessperson, you may not need bulging muscles or flawless skin, but your career is no less dependent on a healthy body.

Haworth, who lectures about the connection between food, emotions and health, has worked as a private chef for high-profile actors such as Michael Weatherly of “NCIS” fame. She says, “Actors know that if they eat the craft services food on set, they’re going to get fat, they’re going to get sick, they’ll feel horrible. Actors work hard; they are not allowed to be sick. They hire me to keep healthy.”

What if we took the same approach for ourselves? What if we treated our bodies as the best asset of our business? What if instead of reaching for caffeine and sugar to stay awake, we gave the asset a decent night’s rest? What would happen if we gave the asset the best nutrition available?

Haworth – – said, “When you’re not conscious of the way you’re living your life, and you’re not paying attention, it can get really nasty.”

Arianna Huffington, who just authored “The Sleep Revolution,” says, “After my own collapse from sleep deprivation, I became an all-out sleep evangelist. A ‘sleep revolution’ will allow us to better solve the world’s problems.”

Experts are telling us what our body has been trying to communicate for a long time. Caffeine will help you get through a day. Sleep and nutrition will help you make the most of your life.

Don’t abuse your best asset.