·  Legal News, Analysis, & Commentary

Health & Medicine

How a Good Night’s Sleep Can Help You Be a Better Lawyer

— November 7, 2019

Burning the midnight oil may result in weakened memory, irritability, and a lack of creativity.

How many times have you told yourself, “I need to finish this by morning, so I will sleep a couple of hours less now and catch up on sleep on the weekend?” A lawyer’s job is full of deadlines and stress, right? And when it gets you buried in paperwork, it’s normal for you to want to give up some sleep to deal with it. 

But there’s one important thing you should understand: 

Even sporadic sleep deprivation can take its toll on your career achievements.

So, how to not let that happen? And how exactly does sleep help you succeed? Let’s find out.

Good Sleep Makes You a Good Lawyer — True or False?

Of course, true. 

Here are the main effects of good sleep which are tightly linked to your ability to achieve at work. 

Sleep Clears Up Your Head


During the day, our brain utilizes a lot of different chemicals to function properly. The byproducts of these chemical reactions are then removed from your cerebrospinal fluid through the lymphatic system.

But guess when this magic happens? Correct, during sleep.

To get your brain cleaned up, you need to go into the stage of deep sleep. During this stage, your brain cells shrink, allowing the cerebrospinal fluid to flow more freely and remove toxins faster.

But when you’re short on sleep, the waste cannot be removed properly, so it continues to build up, making your brain foggy and slow. As a result, you may not be able to concentrate and properly do your job.

Sleep Helps You Perform Better

Obviously, when you’re sleep-deprived, your energy levels are low, and you cannot work at the pace you’re used to. You may also get distracted more often and find it hard to keep your focus on the task.

Studies find this is a normal reaction to insufficient sleep.

According to a review published in the Sleep Science Journal, sleep-deprived individuals put in increased efforts to stay focused and experience a loss of motivation to complete the task. As a result, their performance at work decreases.

Now, a critical skill for your performance as a lawyer is creativity, as it allows you to find unusual solutions to help your clients.

But here’s the deal:

A large part of the process of finding these solutions happens during the REM-sleep stage — when we process all the information obtained during the day.

Sleep deprivation, though, can alter your sleep structure by reducing the percentage of REM sleep and increasing the amount of non-REM sleep. So, you may become less creative, which can affect your working achievements in a negative way.

Thanks to Sleep, You Remember Things Better

Working in jurisprudence is incredibly hard. There are millions of details you need to hold in your head. And the more clients you have, the harder it can be to work, juggling between them all.

So, a good memory is a great asset to any lawyer. 

And this is why you need to get your hours of sleep no matter what.

Memory consolidation is another process that occurs during the deep sleep stage. Our brain transfers short-term memories we have obtained during the day from the hippocampus to the neocortex, where they turn into long-term memory. 

Some scientists believe that memory impairment happens when the connection between neural cells weakens. And a 2016 study on mice showed that short sleep may contribute to that, as it decreases the density of neural cells in the hippocampus, which affects short-term memory formation.

Woman leaning on top building rail during daytime; image by Hernan Sanchez, via
Woman leaning on top building rail during daytime; image by Hernan Sanchez, via

Sleep Doesn’t Allow Your Emotions to Mess with Your Decisions

As a lawyer, you should keep a cool head and not allow your emotions to take over.

But this can be quite a challenging task when you run short on sleep.

The thing is, sleep deprivation can aggravate some hidden mood disorders and suppressed emotions. That’s because of its effect on the amygdala, which is believed to be a center of emotional regulation in the brain.

Normally, the amygdala regulates immediate emotional responses and acts as a ‘go’-signal for our brain. But there’s also a ‘stop’-signal, which is located in the prefrontal cortex. 

When you become sleep-deprived, the amygdala goes into an overdrive mode and the connection between it and the prefrontal cortex becomes weaker. This may result in more pronounced anger tantrums and increased irritability.

Bottom line?

Leave emotions to your clients and get a good sleep before an important day.

How to Ensure a Better Sleep If You’re Short on Hours?

So, if you want to be a better lawyer, you certainly shouldn’t skimp on sleep.

But is it even possible to get those seven to eight hours a night, living in such a busy world?

Actually, it is.

Below are a few tips you can try — and who knows, maybe you will even find that you can sleep less and still feel well-rested.

  • Take your time to wind down. Yes, all those applications won’t fill out themselves. And those three calls are still pending in your voicemail. Sometimes it’s just impossible to let your brain off work, but you have to learn how to do that if you want to sleep better. Usually, guided meditation, reading, or any other calming activity will work. Do it at least half an hour before bedtime to help yourself get into the mood for sleep.
  • Make sure your bed doesn’t make your sleep issues worse. You can drastically improve your sleep quality by choosing the right mattress type based on your sleep position, weight and personal preferences. Also, you should check whether your pillow supports your head properly. 
  • Stay active. Physical activity kills two birds with one stone. First, it’s a natural way to get tired and fall asleep faster. Second, it can boost endorphins, which may induce the feeling of calm and relaxation, thus promoting deeper sleep.

Join the conversation!