The First Step to Success? Getting Enough Sleep

The best excuse to stay in bed

In our pursuit of success, sleep is often the first to go. From regular employees to C-suite executives, sleep-deprivation and over-exhaustion is worn as a badge of honor, with most professionals often bragging about how little sleep they get every night due to the amount of work that they do.

Admirable? Perhaps — if you’re the sadomasochist type. Downright foolish? No question about it.

A lack of sleep endangers the most crucial elements to one’s success — the mind and the body. Thankfully, successful entrepreneurs such as media mogul Arianna Huffington and Amazon head honcho Jeff Bezos have become “sleep evangelists,” urging professionals and entrepreneurs alike to make sleep a priority in their pursuit of success.

Why people need enough sleep

First, a little primer on how sleep keeps our body up and at ‘em:

A study published in The Journal of Neuroscience in March 2016 revealed evidence that sleep is vital to long-term memory formation. “Episodic memories are gradually assimilated into long-term memory, and this process is strongly influenced by sleep,” study authors reported.

It’s not just memory that gets a boost. Another study, published in the same journal back in October 2015, showed that bad sleep affects your appetite, your self-control, your vigilance, your hormones, and even your genes. “This only reinforces the fact that enough sleep is needed for optimum well-being,” add the authors.

According to Russell Foster, a circadian neuroscientist (read: an expert on the body’s sleep cycles), in his 2013 TED Talk, a good night’s worth of snoozing increases your concentration, attention, decision-making, creativity, social skills…the list goes on. Sleep-deprivation, on the other hand, can lead to slower learning, increased impulsiveness, and poor judgment and creativity, Foster adds.

Running on little to no sleep will yield diminishing returns. Not only are sleep-deprived people less productive, they also tend to burn out faster than they burn the midnight oil.

What gets in the way

Still, most of us resist the idea of sleeping on time, or worse, even belittle the value of getting enough sleep.

Foster says that, in the 1950s, people still upheld the prescribed eight hours of sleep per night. Since then, it’s been cut into half: in 2013, most people reported getting by with 4–5 hours of sleep per night.

Perhaps media messages and new social norms are partially to blame. Here’s a familiar one: “Money never sleeps.” You might have heard that one from Wall Street execs. Even beyond the financial sector, shift work and always-on connectivity have since become the norm in workplaces all over the world.

Sleep has seemingly become a market commodity — that is, something to be earned, rather than a basic necessity for much-needed biological function.

If the desire to get enough sleep does not come naturally to you, maybe it is time to examine your mindset about sleep and rest, says Firas Kittaneh, a “sleep evangelist” and CEO of eco-friendly luxury mattress company Amerisleep, in his column for Entrepreneur-US.

“Is it (sleep) an activity you are fighting, or something you value? Make a conscious effort to thinkabout the positive advantages of sleep when you are tempted to burn the midnight oil,” Kittaneh says.

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