Success, whether at school, at work, or in our personal domains, is ingrained in us from a young age. We strive to plant the seeds of success, so we can reap the fruits of our efforts.
Along our journey, we hear all sorts of tips for success. People like Tony Robbins and Jay Abraham, who are dominating the life coaching space, are teaching us how to set goals, use affirmations, and fake it till you make it. These tricks might be the missing piece of the puzzle for some, while for others, they might prove to be ineffective.
What if we told you that the key to success is much simpler than you think? Could it be that our sleep quality determines our success?
Let’s see how the most successful people in the world are sleeping so they can be more productive when they’re awake and how your sleep affects your success.
How does sleep affect your brain and body?
For some, sleep is the relaxation paradise they’re longing for at the end of the day. For others, it’s a gateway to the abodes of our subconsciousness and the world of dreams.
We have such a coveted relationship with sleep because it’s a necessity that our bodies naturally crave. No energy drink, nor the most luxurious spa day can make us feel as rejuvenated and tranquil as a good night’s sleep.
Sleep works up its magic to restore our essential brain and bodily functions, and it affects pretty much every system of the body. Think of it as an overnight rebirth.
Your cognitive performance can be improved by sleep, enhancing your short-term memory, attention, and processing speed. A study by Janna Mantua and Guido Simonelli proved that total sleep deprivation worsens these brain functions, and several nights of experimentally induced chronic sleep restriction (e.g., 5 hours of sleep per night) can have the same effect on vigilance as a single night of total sleep deprivation.
Sleep is also vital for maintaining a healthy immune system and preventing us from having a burn-out and taking sick days. It’s proven that sleep deprivation can throw off your immune system, leading to illness.
Your mental well-being is also at stake when you’re not getting enough sleep. One night of poor-quality sleep can leave you feeling irritated, while chronic sleep deprivation can lead to anxiety and depression. In return, you’re more likely to take sick days off due to poor mental health and stress. A CIPD survey showed that 79% of the respondents have been absent from work due to stress. A good night’s sleep, on the other hand, will make you feel motivated to go after your dreams, equipped with brain clarity and peace of mind.
What’s the ideal amount of sleep?
According to the YouGov weekly sleep tracker, Britons’ sleep patterns vary from person to person. In the week between 24th and 31st March, the majority of people (32%) were sleeping for seven hours per night. 27% were getting six hours of sleep per night and 11% were sleeping for only five hours.
But what’s the ideal amount of sleep per night? The work of C. J. Wild and colleagues suggests that there is a ‘goldilocks’ amount of sleep that’s not too little, nor too much. That’s estimated to be between seven and eight hours, and it’s what best supports complex cognition.
Some of the most successful people in the world are also adopting the ‘goldilocks’ sleep philosophy. Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, said that getting eight hours of sleep helps him be an assertive executive. Eight hours is “the needed amount to feel energized and excited,” commented the Amazon giant.
Tobias Lutke, founder and CEO of the e-commerce company Shopify, also stands by the eight-hours rule. He tweeted: “I need 8ish hours of sleep a night. Same with everybody else, whether we admit it or not.”
Bill Gates had a different approach to his sleep-success routine at the beginning of his career. He would work late nights and even pull all-nighters, as he considered sleeping “lazy”. Later on, he realised “that my all-nighters, combined with almost never getting eight hours of sleep, took a big toll”. Now, Gates is a fervent believer in a healthy sleep hygiene and at least seven hours of sleep per night.
The cost of insufficient sleep
Lack of sleep comes at a cost. It hinders productivity, which often leads to economic losses.
A study by RAND Europe applied economic modelling of data from five OECD countries, including the U.S., Japan, Germany, UK, and Canada to determine the cost of less sleep. The results showed that the UK’s financial losses due to lack of sleep amounted to up to £38 billion per year. Nevertheless, if individuals slept for an hour more than they do, this could add £22 billion to the UK economy.
Moreover, lack of sufficient sleep can also affect our longevity. It’s estimated that a person who sleeps for six hours or less per night has a 13% higher mortality risk than a person who sleeps between seven and nine hours, meaning we get less time to achieve our dreams.
How to sleep for success?
In his blog, Bill Gates advises on how to get better sleep, in order to increase productivity, based on his personal experiences.
He recommends replacing LEDs bulbs in the bedroom because they emit blue light that hinders sleep. If you’re able to control the temperature of your room, set it to 18 °C before going to bed, as a cooler room temperature promotes better sleep. He also advises limiting alcohol intake before bed and taking a midday nap like some Mediterranean and South American cultures still do. However, your siesta shouldn’t be later than 3 pm.
Louise Rusk, founder of Cowberry Home, a luxurious linen bedding and sleep essentials retailer, also shared a few tips to enhance your sleep hygiene:
“Think of your sleep routine as a mindfulness routine. We’re going through so much stress in our everyday lives that it’s vital to learn how to switch off, calm our minds, and indulge in a restful practice. Dedicate some “me” time an hour or so before you go to bed. Use that time to reflect upon your day and let go of any unhealthy thoughts that might hinder you from falling asleep easily. Meditation, yoga, and journaling are all great activities to get your mind, body, and soul ready for a good night’s sleep.
“It’s also important that your sleep environment is nice and tidy. As we all know, a clean house represents a clear mind. Change your bedding regularly and use one that’s soft, feels nice to the skin, and embraces you in its gentle hug, such as linen bedding.”
Next time you’re tempted to work late nights or pull an all-nighter, think about the success stories of some of the richest people in the world. Developing good sleep hygiene is vital not only for success but also for our health and mental well-being. Honour your sleep!