The Connection Between Sleep and Productivity
For many entrepreneurs, a 9-to-5 work day is a myth. From their perspective, working countless hours with a few (or more) sleepless nights is how one achieves their dream. And while hard work pays off, so does an investment in sleep.
Sleep and Work Productivity
While you make think trimming out two or three hours of sleep won’t have an impact on your success and productivity, a recent study from the Harvard Business Review disagrees.
The study compared 784 practicing entrepreneurs and found that those who received fewer hours of rest the night prior to the test ranked ill-conceived ideas above others, suggesting that entrepreneurs who are short on sleep cannot properly identify the strongest business idea or model.
An even bigger concern of the study: sleep deprivation. When asked to think of potential business ideas, the entrepreneurs who were sleep-deprived were not able to evaluate and layout a strategic business plan. While these results may surprise you, these findings prove that sleepiness creates barriers to success when trying to accomplish important entrepreneurial tasks and can even limit one’s operational efficiency.
Our subjective feelings of sleepiness plateau over time, even if we remain chronically sleep-deprived.
A Sleep Expert’s Opinion
Mattress Firm’s sleep expert Dr. Sujay Kansagra agrees Harvard’s findings demonstrates just how important sleep is to overall cognitive performance. While we have ample data to support the role of sleep with brain function, the real-world application of these skills is really what’s important.
With so many working until they reach burnout and exhaustion, these findings highlight an important part of our culture, Dr. Kansagra believes. While many entrepreneurs may perceive that the lack of sleep means you are working harder and getting more done, the opposite may be true — especially if you make a vital mistake at the beginning of a long-term project.
How to Get Better Sleep and Still Be Productive
To help hard-working professionals and entrepreneurs achieve adequate sleep, Dr. Kansagra has put together a list of top sleep tips for striking a balance between work and getting the sleep your body needs to function at its peak ability:
1. Get Your Best Rest Consistently
Based on studies, we know that the longer you are sleep deprived, the worse your performance is on cognitive tasks. The key to performing at your best is a commitment to getting the sleep your body needs every night. Sleeping adequately for one night just before an important meeting or test is great, but if you have built up a large sleep debt, you will still perform less than your best.
2. Don’t Let Sleep Deprivation Become the Norm
It's important to recognize that we are not good at predicting how sleep deprived we are. Our subjective feelings of sleepiness plateau over time, even if we remain chronically sleep-deprived.
This allows our objective performance on tasks that require prolonged attention to worsen over time.
3. Use Napping to Your Advantage
Keep in mind that strategic napping may help boost your productivity and improve mental agility, so if you have skimped on sleep and you have an obligation that will require extra mental efforts, consider a 20-30-minute nap before your big meeting. While it’s not a long-term solution to your sleep deprivation, it can help give you the boost you need to perform your best when it really matters.
So, if you are exploring a new idea or putting extra time in at work, remember that sleep helps and enhances your ability to evaluate business opportunities. Before pulling an all-nighter or reducing your sleep schedule, consider the cognitive risks. Sleep is essential for strong performance, especially before any ideation or evaluation tasks. After all, you need to dream to make your dreams come to life.