Want to be more focused, mentally sharp and accomplished? Make sleep your competitive advantage
Elon Musk says he sleeps six hours a night; more and it is “less productive”. Maybe the Tesla founder is right. Maybe he really is that sleep/productivity outlier in a million.
According to a 2018 study published in Sleep, people who sleeping five to six hours is 19% less productive than people who regularly sleep seven to eight hours a night. As for hardcore sleep warriors? People who average less than five hours a night are almost 30% less productive.
More waking hours available? Absolutely. But much less productive.
This seems especially true for entrepreneurs. A study published in Theory and practice of entrepreneurship found that lack of sleep creates ADHD-like tendencies (their expression, not mine) that make people more likely to start a business on a whim or whim rather than a solid, well-thought-out idea.
As for ideas in general, a study published in company newspaper found that lack of sleep causes you to have worse thoughts — and thinking that your bad ideas are actually good.
And then there’s this: A 2018 study found that lack of sleep correlates with tension, anxiety, and lower overall mood — which also has an impact on the mood of your employees.
Why? Research shows you only get six hours of sleep makes any task that requires concentration, careful thought, or problem solving much more difficult; in fact, when it comes to attention and reaction time, sleeping just six hours is equivalent to drinking two beers – and sleeping just four hours is equivalent to drinking five beers.
Other research shows that sleep deprivation makes any activity require multiple steps – reading just about any meaningful activity – much harder.
So maybe Musk is a sleep outlier. Maybe six o’clock is his ideal place to sleep.
But that’s not my sweet spot.
And it’s really, really unlikely to be your sweet spot; a very small a fraction of the population is actually built that way.
While you may have conditioned yourself to get by on relatively little sleep, that doesn’t mean it’s good for you — or for your performance. Sleep less and you are almost surely less attentivethoughtful and mentally skilled than you could be.
And much less effective as an entrepreneur.
For example, let’s say you need to prepare a business presentation. Or even more critical, a pitch to a potential investor. You devoting what seems like endless hours to the pursuit of knowledge and recall. And even if you manage to remember what you needed, still: The learning process took way too much time and effort.
If that sounds like you—because it certainly sounds like me—sleep science offers a solution.
According to a 2016 study published in Psychological sciencespeople who studied before bed, then slept a lot, then did a quick exam the next morning not only spent less time studying, but also increased their long-term retention by 50%.
Why? A factor is what psychologists call sleep-dependent memory consolidation“Converging evidence, from the molecular to the phenomenological, leaves no doubt that offline memory reprocessing during sleep is an important part of how our memories are formed and ultimately shaped.”
Or in non-research parlance, sleeping on it not only helps your brain classify what you’ve learned, but also makes it easier to access that information.
So stop seeing sleepless nights as the path to small business success.
Consider getting enough sleep a competitive advantage.
Because if six hours can be enough for Elon Musk of Austin, in the unforgettable lyrics by Matthew Quigley“It’s not Dodge City, and you’re not Bill Hickock.”