Getting More Sleep Can Help You Achieve More In Life
The old myth says that the early bird gets the worm, and while that might be true if we were birds trying to find a worm to eat, it isn’t necessarily true for a human trying to be more creative and productive in modern society. Whether you are someone who spends their time reading self-help books or listening to hustle gurus, it’s likely you have been inundated with the idea of “hustle culture”. The concept that every waking moment should be devoted to whatever the current flavor of the month hustle is. This advice also typically comes with some anecdote about sleep or wake times such as. “You can sleep when you are dead”, or the earlier mentioned one, “the early bird gets the worm”. Essentially, forgo adequate sleep in favor of spending more time doing whatever it is you are doing. I am here to tell you that this idea is flawed.
Before we get started I just want to give you some background on how important sleep really is. A study done by Harvard Medical School found that sleep deprivation impairs brain function in the same way that alcohol does. So, if you are sleep-deprived and trying to be productive, you are essentially working while drunk. The National Sleep Foundation also found that people who sleep less than 7 hours a night are more likely to catch a cold, and even if they don’t catch a cold, they are more likely to have other health problems such as heart disease or obesity. Sleep is the world’s best medicine, and we have been underutilizing it for decades, so let’s take a deep dive into some of the misconceptions that have arisen regarding sleep.
Waking up at 4:00 AM Gives You a Headstart.
True. If you were to wake up at 4:00 A.M. well-rested and ready to face your day, it’s likely that the early rising time would give you a substantial head start on most of the world. The reality, however, is that most people don’t go to bed nearly early enough to make this a reality. Waking up at 4:00 A.M. does is give you an extra two hours of work time before the rest of the world wakes up. Assuming you sleep for eight hours, that gives you two hours to work uninterrupted. However, if you are sleep-deprived, those hours are going to be far less productive than if you had waited until 7:00 A.M. when most of the world is awake and working. Humans need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep opportunity a night to reach the required number of deep sleep and REM cycles for optimal recovery from the previous day. Those cycles are what allow both your brain and body to fully rejuvenate, and without them, it’s like driving a car on a long trip without stopping for gas. You aren’t going to get very far before you run out.
Now, if you are able to get to bed at 8:00 PM the night before, and this means sleeping, not simply laying in bed watching Netflix, then yes a 4:00 A.M. start time is a good way to get a headstart on the world. For most people, this simply isn’t possible, or reasonable. If you are forced to choose between a 4:00 A.M. start time on 5 hours of sleep, or a 6:00 A.M. start time with 7, choose 6 o’clock.
Just Catch Up On Sleep During The Weekend
Sorry, this isn’t how sleep works either. It’s not a bucket that you can just refill all at once after it’s been emptied. If you are running in 5 hours of sleep all week, and then try to sleep for 12 hours on Saturday and Sunday in order to make up for it, you are still going to be sleep-deprived. The best way to avoid this is by setting a sleep schedule and sticking to it as much as possible. This means going to bed at the same time every night, and waking up at the same time every morning even on weekends.
This may seem like an impossible task, but if you are able to stick to it, your sleep will improve dramatically. And with improved sleep comes improved creativity and productivity. The concept of catching up on sleep has become pervasive in colleges and workplaces, but the science behind it is fundamentally flawed. In order to reap the benefits of proper sleep, you need to ensure that you are getting an adequate amount each and every night.
I Can Function on Less Sleep, I have For Years
This is the worst offender of the group of sleep fallacies. While there are a select few humans who can fully function on less than 7 hours of sleep a night, you likely aren’t one of them. It’s estimated that roughly 1–3% of people fall into this category. The reality is more likely that you have been sleep-deprived for so long that you see that level of function as your normal baseline. I am here to tell you that it isn’t. Instead, you are intentionally reducing your ability to work at peak levels by never allowing your body or brain a proper amount of rest.
Now, imagine the amount of productivity and creativity you might experience if you allowed yourself to no longer be sleep-deprived. It’s possible that many of those goals you have been striving to reach would suddenly become more attainable.
Now that we have debunked some of the common myths surrounding sleep, let’s talk about the benefits you are going to see if you start allowing yourself to get adequate sleep on a daily basis.
Improved Productivity and Creativity
Sleep serves an unbelievable number of functions, and we are just starting to fully understand them. One of the key functions is washing toxins from your brain, along with wiring in of the information and experiences from the previous day. This process is crucial for memory consolidation, creativity, and productivity.
When you sleep-deprive yourself, not only are you reducing your productivity and creativity in the present moment, but also long-term. This is because sleep deprivation causes a significant reduction in your ability to learn and retain new information. It also increases the likelihood of making poor decisions due to a decrease in impulse control along with decreased emotional intelligence.
In order to reap the benefits of sleep, you need to make sure you are hitting enough deep sleep and REM cycles, and the only way to do that is to give yourself enough time to sleep.
In order to be your most productive and creative self, it is crucial that you are getting 7–9 hours of sleep on a nightly basis.
Improved Mental Health
Not only does sleep deprivation lead to reduced productivity and creativity, but it also leads to increased levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. This is because when you are sleep-deprived, your cortisol levels (the stress hormone) are chronically elevated. It also causes a decrease in serotonin, which is the neurotransmitter responsible for mood regulation, often referred to as the “feel-good” hormone. Many anti-depressants are SSRIs, or serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they allow this feel-good hormone to remain in your synapses for longer. More Seratonin = better mood, and more sleep = more serotonin. Do you see where I am going with this?
All of this means that when you are sleep-deprived, you are more likely to experience negative emotions and less likely to experience positive ones. This can lead to a snowball effect where sleep deprivation becomes a major contributor to mental health problems.
If you are able to get more sleep each night you may see your mood improve. The more important impact from a business standpoint is that you will experience an increase in your emotional intelligence, which can be a key factor when you are working with others or negotiating a deal with clients.
Reduced Risk of Disease
It’s no secret that sleep is important for overall health, but most people don’t realize just how important it is. did you know that sleep deprivation is a major risk factor for disease? It’s true!
There are several different ways in which sleep deprivation can lead to disease. One way is through the increased levels of cortisol mentioned earlier. This hormone not only increases stress and anxiety but also decreases the immune system’s ability to fight off infection. Along with this, sleep deprivation causes a decrease in the production of cytokines, which are proteins that help the immune system fight inflammation.
In the short term this can mean more colds, and in turn, sick days. We all know that if you are an entrepreneur a sick day is a missed opportunity. Sleep will help keep your immune system functioning at a high level, which means you spend less time being laid up in bed.
On a longer time horizon, being chronically underslept can lead to more serious health issues like an increased risk of developing cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s.
Getting adequate sleep will make sure you can spend more time working on your business or projects in both the short term and the long term.
These are just a few of the seemingly innumerable impacts that sleep seems to have. While we all want to spend that extra hour working on our laptop in bed, and waking up at 4:00 A.M. to get back to the grind I am urging you to reconsider. Sleep may be your secret weapon to finding the success you are looking for, and unlike most things, it’s entirely free. Take advantage of this secret super power that mother nature gave you, because your competitors aren’t.
Next, I will be looking at some of the ways you can help improve your own sleep quality, so if you are interested follow me to be notified when it goes up!