The rule seems to be, as you age you get less sleep. Not that you don’t NEED sleep, but because there is something about aging that alters the sleep cycle. I have seen numerous articles of late about how Americans (and others) are increasingly insomniant. Partly because of the innumerable devices we leave at the bedside, partly because of the seeming anxiety imparted by modern life, but largely (in my view) because we see sleep as somehow “getting in the way” of our overall productivity.
Balderdash. Sleep can only enhance productivity and from this day forward ought to be included in our definition of overall productivity.
From a recent article at CNBC, I learned that while business leaders such as Jeff Bezos, Sheryl Sandberg and Arianna Huffington all have packed schedules, you won’t catch these executives burning the midnight oil. Instead, they are stepping up in favor of getting a solid night’s rest.
Amazon’s Jeff Bezos makes a point of getting enough sleep every single night. “Eight hours of sleep makes a big difference for me, and I try hard to make that a priority,” he says. “For me, that’s the needed amount to feel energized and excited.”
Adequate rest not only leaves Bezos invigorated for the day to come but allows him to continuously make sharp, thoughtful choices without suffering from decision fatigue. That’s what can happen when choices become harder as a day goes on and you deplete your finite store of energy.
“Mostly, as any of us go through our lives, we don’t need to maximize the number of decisions we make per day,” Bezos explains. “Making a small number of key decisions well is more important than making a large number of decisions [not-so-well]. If you shortchange your sleep, you might get a couple of extra ‘productive’ hours, but that productivity might be an illusion.”
While many powerful leaders pride themselves on how little they can sleep, Alphabet’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt says that “the real secret is the most successful people have awareness of what their body needs and sleep whenever necessary.”
Schmidt points out that getting enough sleep permeates every aspect of your life, including your eating habits, decision making skills and “physical and mental ability to do almost everything.”
“If one is too tired to consider the butterfly effect of their actions, they could set themselves up for quantum chaos,” he writes. “We all know that feeling when we are awake, productive, full of energy and happy to be alive. Those are the days when the fabric of life twists and turns in our favor, being productive is easy, and nothing can stop you.”
In 1997, Bill Gates wrote about how he envied people who can survive on only three or four hours’ worth of sleep, but he has since changed his tune. [Editor’s note: I can recall being in Albuquerque when Microsoft was still a babe and seeing Mr. Gates asleep at his keyboard.]
Gates admits that, although he can give a speech without much sleep, he is unable to think creatively if he isn’t well-rested.
“I used to work all night in the office, but it’s been quite a while since I lived on catnap,” he says in a Microsoft FAQ. “I like to get seven hours of sleep a night because that’s what I need to stay sharp and creative and upbeat.”
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg says it’s important for business leaders to take steps to ensure their employees are getting enough sleep.
“We have to acknowledge that not everyone can get the sleep they need,” Sandberg says. “So many people out there, so many single mothers and others, work multiple jobs, and we don’t have the safety net we need for people to make sure that they can take care of their own health, and that we help take care of them.”
“It’s incumbent upon all of us who run companies, and all of us, to make sure that people can make ends meet and have the ability to get a good night’s sleep,” she adds.
After collapsing from exhaustion and breaking her cheekbone 10 years ago, Arianna Huffington realized that she need to make some changes in her life.
“That was the beginning of my realizing that millions of us are living under the collective delusion that we need to burn out in order to succeed,” she says.
The Huffington Post founder started researching the intersection of sleep and productivity and even wrote books on the topic: The Sleep Revolution and Thrive.
Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini values rest so highly that he created an incentive program that pays employees to get more sleep.
“If they can prove they get 20 nights of sleep for seven hours or more in a row, we will give them $25 a night, up $500 a year,” he said in an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” in 2016.
Bertolini believes that sleep is crucial to performing well at work. “Being present in the workplace and making better decisions has a lot to do with our business fundamentals,” he told “Squawk Box.”
“You can’t be prepared if you’re half-asleep,” Bertolini said, saying he has the numbers to back up his assertion that better sleep can lead to bigger profits.
Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, follows in the footsteps of the company’s founder in more ways than one: Like Gates, he also makes getting good sleep part of his routine. Nadella says that he wakes up at 7:15 and gets at least eight hours of sleep per night.
While a 7:15. wake-up call might seem early to some, it’s postively indulgent compared to some of Nadella’s fellow Silicon Valley executives. As the Huffington Post points out, it’s several hours later than Apple’s CEO Tim Cook, who has been known to rise as early as 3:45 a.m.
So, there you have it: Several eminent business minds are telling you to get your sleep! Well, not Tim Cook. I imagine he has to get up at 3:45 because he hasn’t yet learned how to delegate whatever it is that he does at 3:45 to someone else, but that’s his business.
For me, it begins at 9pm and ends between 6 and 7am and those 9-10 hours are some of the most productive hours of my day!
How about you?