To be successful in the tech world, why are we often told that we need to sleep less?
If you’re a tech startup, budding entrepreneur or growth-hacker, you’d be forgiven for thinking your path to tech success will only be achieved if you work tirelessly, every hour under the sun, foregoing R&R time in the rapid pursuit of your dreams.
After all, Silicon Valley superheroes are always telling us how they get up at 5am. So that they can hit the gym before ploughing remorselessly into their work the rest of the day. Historical figures are lauded for their apparent ability to have functioned perfectly well on very little nap time.
This article labelled ‘18 successful people who get by on very little sleep’ specifically lists a number of leading tech figures – from Twitter’s Jack Dorsey to Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer – praising them for achieving success by working hard and forgoing sleep.
Buy why is sleep – or the lack of it – connected to success? Why are technology firms and entrepreneurs regularly told that they will only launch that new product, open that second office or expand overseas if they reduce their sleeping time, focusing only on work, work, work?
Why sleep is so important
In fact, adequate sleep is important. It helps us function, think clearly, enjoy greater emotional wellbeing and work creatively, productively and efficiently. A lack of sleep can lead to deprivation and burnout. Neither of these are good things if you’re trying to get ahead in business.
This research from Curtains.com highlights the scale of the effect of lack of sleep, showing it can:
- Make us eat more than 300 extra calories a day
- Increase risk of diabetes, weight gain and heart disease
- Lead to mental health problems in cases of insomnia
- Affect productivity and academic performance
“Employee burnout has significant implications for businesses. Burnout being caused by prolonged emotional and physical stress and is heightened by a lack of sleep,” says Ines Respini Jones, HR Business Partner at Simply HR Consulting
“The lack of sleep combined with high-stress situations reduces employee productivity, leads to disconnect at work and loss of motivation, as well as fostering anger and resentment. This creates often hostile working environments.”
So how to sleep better?
How to get better sleep
Invest in blackout curtains
Blackout curtains block light from passing into your bedroom. Investing in blackout curtains is a great way to improve the quality of your sleep – they stop external light sources interrupting your sleeping pattern. This givess you a golden slumber rather than a toss-and-turn nightmare.
If you feel tired, sleep
“Notice when you start to feel tired and pay attention to it rather than pushing yourself through it for another hour or so,” says leadership consultant Anni Townend. Don’t ignore the signs of tiredness. Don’t give in to peer pressure that might want you to keep on working regardless. Lots of modern offices are equipped with sofas – why not hop onto one for a five-minute nap? It’ll work wonders.
“Knowing ourselves well enough, listening to our bodies and responding with what we need is vital if we are to perform at our best, to be at our best,” Townend adds.
Compartmentalise your worries
If you’re trying to get a tech company off the ground, your mind is likely to be full of worries and concerns. That’s not unusual when growing a business. But if you allow these mental aches and pains to fester they can get lodged in your brain and make it difficult to sleep properly. If this is affecting you, try compartmentalising your worries so you focus on getting to sleep at night, rather than the concerns you’ve got for the next day.
“Keep a notebook by the side of your bed, so that if and when you do wake up with something on your mind you can jot it down, rather than letting it keep you awake,” says Townend.
“Ensuring that you have enough exercise during the day is important, be this choosing to walk rather than use transport. This, along with sleep, refuels us physically, mentally and emotionally – we feel better after it, if not always whilst doing it,” Townend explains.
So why has sleep become such a dirty word? It really shouldn’t be – lack of it drags us down, burns us out, and stresses us out. Plenty of sleep does the opposite. And when you’re trying to make headway in life, you need to be at your optimum. In tech, sleep is a very necessary tool indeed.
This post is part of our contributor series. It is written and published independently of TNW.