We spend so many hours at work that when we clock off, we try to squeeze every minute out of what remains of the day, just to feel that we have a life. So we hit the clubs with friends, stay up watching television, or game online into the wee hours.

Sleep early? No way. Who wants to turn his life into a nightmarish cycle of getting home exhausted only to collapse into bed, then rushing off the next morning to reach the workplace on time again?

Yet, our bodies cry out for sleep. The amount needed differs from person to person, but most of us need seven to nine hours, and few can keep going for too long on less than five hours a night.

Research has found that sleep deprivation can result in memory impairment, inefficient thought processes, a suppressed immune system and even depression. More recent studies have also linked the lack of good-quality sleep - for as short a period as three nights in a row - with a higher risk of diabetes and weight gain.

It doesn't take a genius to see that those aren't the most desirable effects to experience on the job. Who can expect to perform well at work (or in private life) if one is frequently ill, can't think straight or remember things, and is depressed and overweight?

Fine. But can we really impress at work, have a life and get enough sleep as well?

Overtime sometimes

We all encounter busy periods, which could mean bearing with a work-sleep-work and "no-life" routine for a short time.

However, if these peak periods get more frequent, or your on-duty hours are expanding, it could be time to change jobs or have a serious talk with your boss about your responsibilities. Better a disrupted career than lifelong bad health, or family and friends you hardly know because you never see them.

Work faster

Are you a procrastinator, constantly daydreaming and goofing off? Cut it out. Go to work with an attitude that you are here to? that's right, work. Get things done promptly so that you can go home instead of staying on for several extra hours in the evening to finish what you should have done in the morning.

If you are done for the day, leave. Forget about looking good to your boss by putting in unpaid overtime. If your manager thinks that only workers who stay late are good workers, make an appointment for a one-to-one meeting where you can list your projects and discuss how efficiently you have been working.

Remember that in some countries, workers who don't leave the office at five on the dot are perceived as incompetent individuals who can't cope with their work.

Live meaningfully

When you get off work at last, don't fritter the time away drinking yourself silly with acquaintances or going glassy-eyed watching television programmes that don't interest you.

Engage in productive acts to bring you closer to your family and true friends, improve your health or give you a genuine sense of satisfaction.

Even if you feel tired, just chatting with the kids for a while or helping the spouse or parents with light chores can help you feel needed, and encourage your nearest and dearest to appreciate you more. Alternatively, get some exercise, make something useful with your hands, or ring up a good friend who needs a listening ear.

That way, when it's time to turn in, you will feel that you have done well with the day you were given, and do deserve that good seven, eight or nine hours' sleep ahead of you.