Missing sleep doesn’t make you a whizz-kid
There’s a bit of an image problem with entrepreneurs. It isn’t a modern problem; this particular hang-up has been around for decades. In fact, I would say that my father’s generation has it much worse than my own, and perhaps the young kids today don’t really have it at all.
I’m talking about the sleep hang-up.
Many people fetishize a lack of sleep.
They think getting very little sleep is a sign of ‘manliness’ or ‘grit’ or ‘spirit’. They think getting less than 6 hours a night equates to being a hard-worker. They quantify their success in terms of how much time they spend getting shut-eye. Some tell you their usual sleeping patterns with an immense, peculiar pride.
But they’re dead wrong.
Getting very little sleep doesn’t correlate with success at all.
It’s actually quite the opposite – getting too little sleep correlates with impaired cognitive functioning, a decline in mental and physical health, as well as with a range of mental illnesses including depression, anxiety, and paranoia.
How Damaging Is It?
I’m not going to downplay this or try to sit on the fence – not getting enough sleep will cripple you both physically and mentally.
It can have an immediate, devastating effect on your cognitive function, your emotional stability, and your mental health. Subject yourself to more chronic sleep deprivation and you’ll see your body start to deteriorate too.
There’s no two ways about it; sleep is necessary for a happy healthy life. Missing out on sleep will ruin you.
But don’t just take my word for it. Many long-term, reputable clinical studies have found that sleep deprivation has both acute and lasting effects.
This paper is a perfect example. The researchers here didn’t pull any punches. They concluded the following: “Both total and partial SD induce adverse changes in cognitive performance. First and foremost, total SD impairs attention and working memory, but it also affects other functions, such as long-term memory and decision-making.”
That’s pretty much every aspect of cognitive function adversely affected.
You might have heard other studies or news articles telling you how sleep deprivation leaves you as mentally impaired as when under the influence of alcohol, and that’s true!
So clearly, if you want to be firing on all cylinders, you need to be getting enough sleep.
So How Much Do You Need?
Recommendations for how much sleep you need vary wildly with a number of variables; lifestyle, activity levels, age, gender, and even culture.
As I said at the opening of this article, some people insist that anything more than 6 hours is ‘cheating’ or outright ‘laziness’, but we know they’re wrong! This sometimes takes hold across an entire culture – just look at working habits in Japan!
But generally speaking, almost nobody thinks that you can get away with getting less than 7 hours of sleep per night, long term, without seriously harming your health and ability to mentally function.
It seems that 7 hours is the baseline for most adults aged between 18 and 80.
Obviously, younger people require more. Teenagers require a little bit more; about 10 hours is great for their development. For infants, you’re talking about 15 hours per day, and for babies, 18 hours and up is to be expected.
But I assume everybody reading this is aged 20 and over, so for you, 7 hours per night is the bare minimum.
I don’t care if Elon Musk only gets 5 hours a night.
I don’t care what Jeff Bezos does.
You aren’t in the game of making yourself suffer more than your peers. Getting less sleep than Elon Musk will not make you more successful than him – that is the kind of thinking that predominates in my father’s generation, and it got a lot of people nowhere but the hospital.
If you want to be successful, you need to be happy, productive, and motivated for the long term. You need to be working hard for years and years on end. To keep working properly, you need to get enough sleep.
So how do you do it?
How To Get Enough Sleep
If you’re like me, then getting to sleep at a decent hour is a regular problem.
Making sure that you get enough sleep is even more trying.
But for me, getting sleep that is of sufficiently good quality is the most serious and long-standing issue.
I know I’m not alone. A lot of you will struggle with exactly the same things – you’re reading this article after all!
Thankfully, these issues are all related, and they all normally have similar or even the same singular cause.
That means that they can all be addressed at roughly the same time and in roughly the same way.
I’ve written about relaxing elsewhere on this site, as well as about how to avoid burnout. These two articles will be extremely useful in helping you get more sleep, not to mention better quality, long-lasting sleep at that.
But in general, getting a good night’s sleep relies on building good habits.
Yes, I know. Everything for me comes down to habits.
But that is how we work as human beings. We aren’t single command machines – we’re habitual creatures. Without regular routines and habits, we’re lost. It’s a lot easier to work with your psychology than it is to work against it, so using habits to get things done really is the way to go.
You can really start reaping the benefits of a better sleeping schedule right away if you regulate and standardize your pre-bed routines…starting today.
You don’t have to change anything per se. Just whatever you do tonight leading up to going to sleep, do the same thing tomorrow night too. And the next day. And the next day. Ad infinitum.
The more you can standardize your pre-sleep routine, the easier you will find it to have exactly the same sleeping experience each night. That’s just how our brains work.
There’s no need to do anything drastic, but this evening, be mindful of how you are going to replicate your routine the next night.
Keep things simple – brush teeth, wash face, read for 15 minutes, lights out. As you develop your routine, you will see it naturaly expand to include a larger and larger time frame. This is inevitable if you start seeing results, as you will crave a deeper, longer lasting sleep and a more predictable sleeping cycle.
Embrace this evolution when it happens.
And of course, share your experiences below!