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Do successful people sleep less?

31-03-2015

Do successful people sleep less?

You will have heard the myth over and over again. Often it is trotted out by management as a justification for working their team overtime. The belief that successful people sleep less is well entrenched and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. The problem is that while there are undoubtedly successful people who have not slept as much as the average person has (and yes Thomas Edison, Margaret Thatcher and even Barack Obama are all famous ‘small sleepers’) the reality is that there are equally many, if not far more, people who have been successful who have slept for about the average amount each night. It is just that those people who are the aberration are mentioned more often than those who sleep like normal people.

What is even more important this is not something everyone can do? That means that if you want to climb to the top of the corporate ladder then you should not try to replicate the less is best methodology. Those people who are able to survive on less sleep have this ability built in, it is not something that you can learn. You are either able to deal with less than normal sleep or you are not. For those who are not but try the results will be disastrous. Sleep is a critical part of general health and wellbeing, it is responsible for a huge range of vital functions, from mood regulation to appetite control, from memory recall to emotional stability. The reality is that if you try to burn the candle at both ends and it doesn’t come naturally to you then the outcome will be burnout. Your mental and physical health will suffer, as will your ability to deliver at work. Your cognitive capacities will be hampered, your memory will be worse and your emotional state will be more temperamental.

If you really want to get ahead in your career then you will ensure that you are well rested each and every night. The benefits of sufficient amounts of sleep have become increasingly obvious as more and more research cements sleep’s position as one of the most important physiological functions. So important is sleep seen that more and more professional sports teams have reduced training hours with the aim of ensuring their team have enough sleep, and the results have been dramatic. This can also help with your career. More sleep means that you will be at your best each day. Better to work eight great hours than 12 terrible ones.
While some people are able to survive on less than normal sleep and succeed, they really are the exception rather than the rule, and to prove it, here are a bunch of people who have succeed through having a perfectly normal night’s sleep each and every night!

1. Sheryl Sandberg: The Facebook COO and Lean In author didn’t always prioritise sleep, for a long time thinking that she could fit more in each day simply by getting less sleep. It was only when she had her first child that she realised that getting sleep was vital. She now aims to have seven to eight hours a night. “It turns out, when children get enough sleep, everything's fine. And when children don't, nothing is. I realized... I'm like that, too!" Sandberg explains.

2. Jennifer Lopez: J-Lo, as she is known, is another person who gets a solid eight each night. She has always understood the importance of sleep and even after she had her twins in 2008 she was still aiming to get eight a night, often going to sleep at the same time as them so that she could be sure she was going to get her precious Zzzzzzs.

3. Ellen Degeneres: The well-known comedian and TV host is someone who seems to have boundless energy, understands the importance of sleep. “I’m usually asleep by 11 p.m. and up around 7:30 a.m.,” she explains, “It’s a lot!”

4. Jeff Bezos: The man who founded Amazon.com is someone you would consider successful right? There can be no denying that Bezos is one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the US and yet he has been getting a good eight hours a night for at least 15 years, way before the problems with sleep deprivation and physical and emotional burnout had become commonly discussed. “I’m more alert and I think more clearly,” Bezos explains, “I just feel so much better all day long if I’ve had eight hours.”

5. Dalai Lama: The spiritual head of Tibetan Buddhism believes that “sleep is the best meditation” and this is something he practices as well as preaches. He sleeps between eight and nine hours a day and understands that sleep is vital for ensuring his mind is calm and relaxed in the daytime.

6. Jessica Alba: The A lister Hollywood actress is well known for her holistic focus on health and a major component of this is ensuring that she gets a good night’s sleep each and every night. Since becoming a mum this has become even more important for her.  Not long after the birth of her first child she explained that “You can sleep, it’s possible -- it’s about putting your kid on a schedule instead of letting them run you.”

7.  Matthew McCounaughey: In the past few years his career has gone to the next level and part of this success could lie in the fact that as well as being famously laid back he also ensures that no matter what he gets a solid eight and a half hours of sleep each and every night.

8. Bill Gates: Finally, you may have heard of this man, the richest person in the world and one of the most vital people for creating our modern world, you may think that Bill Gates would have worked every hour of the day to get where he is today but the truth is that he is a big proponent of sleep, “I like to get seven hours of sleep a night because that’s what I need to stay sharp and creative and upbeat,” Gates explains.

So there you have it, sure some successful people have got by on less than normal amounts of sleep but they are the exception, there are plenty of people who have succeed because they have slept well each night.


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