Does getting enough sleep mean I’ll never be successful?

Maybe I am a little obsessed with sleep. I was that newborn baby who had to be woken up after sleeping for 10 hours straight so that my parents could feed me and keep me alive. As a teen, I’d manage to climb out of bed at 4pm and ravenously empty the contents of the fridge, just to go back to bed around 7pm and sleep easily until the following morning. Now, as a 30-year-old owner of a small DigiTech startup, sleep is showing signs of becoming more and more of a luxury but I don’t agree that it should.

The startup/entrepreneur 4-hours-of-sleep-heroism cycle doesn’t work for me. This isn’t an ‘after managing 300 staff for 2 years’ sort of story, it’s a look back to the past 10 months that at some point, made me feel like I was losing it. For a moment, I thought success was limited to only those who before the sun had even risen had already meditated, run a 5km and downed a couple of cups of green juice. So I tried it and I crashed. On the days I’d miss out on sleep I found myself simply opening more internet tabs and flagging more things to do without actually doing them, all the while downing jugs of cheap coffee.

Come on, I’m better than this.

It finally caught up to me when I came down with an infection unlike any I’d ever experienced and had to be put not only on intense antibiotics but anti-anxiety medication, just to make it through the day. I admit, they made me feel better and I got through the work needed, but I was in a medicated brain-fog.

So I threw that shit away.

There is no shortage of articles and studies documenting the importance of getting enough sleep. I find it strange how all the proven health problems that sleep deprivation can cause is not enough to scare the bejeezus out of people and get them to take action. Conservative estimates count a third of the world is sleep deprived, that’s one in every three people whose cognition, vigilance, mood and performance is hindered. That’s a third of your workforce generating sub-par work because they’re exhausted. What makes this matter worse is that when you’re sleep deprived you don’t even know it, you’ve lost the ability to accurately judge how impaired you are.

Some people can inherently handle occasional sleep deprivation, unfortunately I am not one of them.

I recently ran a quick poll on my Facebook page, asking for an average on how much sleep people got per night. After removing feedback from new moms and one clearly sleep-deprived Cathay Pacific pilot, I got to an average of 6.5 hours a night. Not even 7, not even the bare minimum I’m able to cope with. It shocked me. And it didn’t.

I profess it’s time to take sleep more seriously. I’m going to continue with my 8 hours a night and sometimes a sneaky nap after lunch.

Being a late-riser shouldn’t mean I’m not ambitious or that my work and drive to succeed is not up-to-par.

It’s when I wake up at 5am and force myself to try and disrupt an industry before sunrise that I really suffer. Simply Google Gwyneth Paltrow’s Clean Sleeping Trend and you’ll know what I’m talking about.