Ever wonder why athletes prioritise sleep but business people don’t?
Good, because that’s exactly what this piece is about.
Before we start: We’re not going to tell you to turn your phone off an hour before bed, or to stop caffeine before 2pm, or to sleep at a set temperature.
Today we’re hoping to flip something in your brain to encourage you to carve out more time for sleep. We’ll also highlight some stats that might help you to understand that the deprioritisation of sleep is hindering you from productivity, performance and pleasure.
The Bedchmark (Sorry)
First things first, adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep per night to function properly. There are too many sources to need to back this up, but a minimum of 7 hours is paramount.
71% of 4,000 Brits (according to a 2022 Omnibus study) slept for less than 7 hours per night. That’s worrying.
Why? Because according to OECD data from five different countries, “an individual that sleeps on average less than six hours per night has a 13% higher mortality risk than [one] sleeping between 7-9 hours” (Hafner, et al., 2017).
No surprise that the UK Health Security Agency states “better sleep is the biggest single contributor to living better.”
Chase Your Dreams
For some reason we’re kind of okay with not getting the appropriate amount of sleep. Hustle culture champions those who barely sleep, almost as if it’s somehow representative of the drive they have for success.
Specifically with regards to men, a lack of sleep is actually perceived to be somehow more masculine. A group of 2500 men were asked to consider a man shopping for a bed, the salesperson asks, “How much do you normally sleep?”
The study participants consistently rated the man as more masculine if he slept less, and less masculine if he slept more. In another, the men who slept less were viewed “more positively” than those who were better rested… Where TF is this veneration of exhaustion stemming from?
“If one is too tired to consider the butterfly effect of their actions, they could set themselves up for quantum chaos.”
- Eric Schmidt, former Google CEO.
If it isn’t obvious, poor sleep leads to worse communication, performance, concentration, memory and mood (UKHSA, 2018). As someone interested in wellbeing, it’s likely that you want all of these things to be 10/10 for the sake of your happiness, your business, your relationships and your workouts.
You Know You Want It
A 2022 YouGov poll of 2500 people found that 89% of them said “their life would be improved if they had more sleep.”
Honestly, doing the research for this newsletter’s been pretty astounding to understand quite how misbalanced society’s approach to sleep is. It’s really made me reconsider. Hopefully it does the same for you.
So, onto athletes: Tom Brady, Venus Williams, Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova, Lebron James and Usain Bolt are all on record as stating they sleep for 10 hours, or more, per day (ESPN, 2012).
Are you going to break the 100m Sprint record? Unlikely.
However, these are some of the all-time best performers in their respective fields. Their commitment to sleep speaks volumes.
You getting five hours sleep is not you chasing your dreams.
It’s hamstringing your potential.
You’re likely elongating the amount of time it takes you to do things, because you aren’t performing to the standard you should be.
Billionaire boy Bezos says it very well:
“Making a small number of key decisions well is more important than making a large number of decisions. If you shortchange your sleep, you might get a couple of extra ‘productive’ hours, but that productivity might be an illusion.”
Research from the University of Rochester (2013) found that sleep removes “toxic proteins” from neurons in the brain, wreaking havoc by impairing your ability to “process information, problem solve… [and] think creatively,” as per Forbes.
1) If you’re unable to get to sleep due to insomnia, or small children, or some other reason, that’s totally understandable and we feel for you.
2) If you consider yourselves to be “one of those people” who doesn’t need as much sleep as everyone else, the likelihood is that you’re fooling yourself.
To quote Matt Walker, one of the world’s leading sleep experts, directly, “it's much more likely that you will be struck by lightning in your lifetime than be one of these individuals.”
So… now what?
Take a page from Ariana Huffington’s book. A previous overworked, under-slept person who one day collapsed from exhaustion. In response, she changed her routine.
"I began getting 30 minutes more sleep a night, until gradually I got to 7 to 8 hours. The result has been transformational.”
Try it yourself. Add an extra 30 minutes into your daily sleep routine for two-weeks. See how you feel, then tailor accordingly.