Everyone Loves To Brag About How Little Sleep They're Getting.
In many a New York breakfast place, Silicon Valley coffeeshop, and university dining hall will you see and hear bleary-eyed investment bankers, entrepreneurs, and students brag about how they manage to function on only a few hours every night.
In the media, we're bombarded with the whacky and insane sleep routines of the rich and famous. Whether it's a five-hour morning routine that starts at 2AM or a CEO that starts responding to emails at 04:30AM, we're given the impression that we need to be more extreme in order to succeed. And the easiest way to do that is to fuck with your sleep.
People who get a lot of shit done are often assumed to do one of two things.
One, they use a ton of drugs.
Two, they sleep very little.
While the first is definitely true in a lot of circles (just watch Wolf of Wall St. if you don't believe me), the second needn't be true. We love to idolize a lack of sleep, since it suggests grit and determination. “I'll sleep when I'm dead,” is a commonly-uttered phrase. Cause while we think we're more productive when we skimp out on sleep, the exact opposite is true.
Most of the world's greatest athletes, thinkers, innovators, and entrepreneurs all ruthlessly prioritize sleep. It's a non-negotiable part of their day. They're not successful despite spending 8-9 hours per day in bed, one could argue they're successful because of it.
It's common sense, but not sleeping enough will really fuck you over. Being sleep deprived is not fun. And while some might think that they can ‘tough it out’, that's more of an exercise in self-delusion than anything else. Not to mention a surefire way of developing a stimulant addiction.
Getting less than 7 hours of sleep on a regular basis can eventually lead to health consequences that affect your entire body.
Lack of sleep has been tied to weight gain, higher blood pressure, lower IQ and mental development in children, issues with short-term and long-term memory recall, lower testosterone production in males, increased risk in cardiovascular disease, and generally just being more moody and susceptible to depression and anxiety. While staying awake and sleeping the bare minimum will kill you outright, the effects it has on your body will be severe.
There's a reason why we spend 1/3rd of our time asleep. There's bound to be some fucking reason why it's needed, don't you think?
Just think of that. Your body, a machine that has been optimized through evolution for millions of years, simply cannot survive without sufficient rest. And it's not just us. Almost all animals need sleep. Some more than others, but the need is there nonetheless. It's a universal constant. You don't hear elephants brag about how they only sleep 2 hours per night, do you? Exactly.
Average sleep length has been declining throughout the country, for all age groups, since the nineteen-eighties, and this shorter sleep duration is very likely making people less healthy.
The difference between sleeping 6 and 8 hours is massive. It can result in you having an extra 20 IQ points to work with. Why should you sacrifice sleep again? To get 8% more out of your day? As if though you're going to be insanely productive in those extra two hours. Odds are you're just going to be spending them watching Netflix or TV.
Sleep's no joke.
The world's best and brightest sleep a lot. You'll see very few Olympic athletes who manage to get by on six hours of sleep. The same goes for leading scientists, thinkers, authors, ice cream parlor owners, mafia bosses, celebrities, and CEOs.
For every high-profile individual bragging about his or her insane sleep habits, there are dozens of others silently getting their eight hours worth in the realm of Morpheus.
The benefits to good sleep are myriad. Greater focus, higher energy, better skin, better mood, better sex drive. The list is endless. Nor should that surprise us all that much. After all, our bodies yell out for sleep for a reason!
There's some evidence to suggest that some people can function on less sleep, most of it anecdotal. The research is still iffy on this, but there might be a genetic component to how much sleep an individual needs. The chances that you've got this particular genetic mutation are slim to none. If you have it, you'll know and you won't be googling it out of curiosity.
Losing out on sleep is not some productivity hack. It won't make you ‘more successful’ nor more productive. You don't need to squeeze every last minute out of your day. More often than not, success and happiness are about prioritization more than anything else.
So how are you going to get all your work done? All those big dreams you want to chase, that novel you want to write, and that gym membership you're definitely going to use this time around. (despite giving up on it half a dozen times)
Too many, the answer is to simply wake up earlier. In the early morning, we're fully charged. We're not yet distracted by a ringing phone or Twitter mentions. We can go to the gym, we can meditate in quiet. We've got the time to write or read or work on our side-business. For many, it's their time of peak productivity.
In the evenings, we're operating at less than fully capacity. Those extra hour spent grinding, mostly doing menial tasks, would be better spent sleeping. One of the best productivity hacks is to get up early. It holds fewer distractions and more quiet time to yourself. For a little while, you're in total control.
There's a million-and-one tips for better sleep out there on the internet. Some will tell you to take hot baths, use special fragrant candles, or expose your butthole to sunlight. While I've not tried the latter (nor would I particularly recommend you do), there are a host of tried and true methods that will result in better sleep, backed up by both heaps of anecdotal and scientific evidence.
There are two aspects to getting good sleep besides simply giving yourself plenty of time: falling asleep and your sleep quality.
Being able to fall asleep easily immediately sets the tone for your night: tossing and turning will make for a fitful sleep. As someone who described himself in the past as a chronic insomniac, changing how I fell asleep completely revolutionized the way I perceived sleep.
Second, all sleep isn't equal. You can sleep 8 hours straight and still be exhausted or well-rested. Your environment and bedding will be the defining factor here.
Here's a quick-and-dirty list of things you can do right now to improve your sleep quality:
Limit Your Caffeine Intake
The half-life of caffeine is somewhere in the vicinity of 5.5 hours after ingestion. Nearly half of that shot of espresso you had at noon is still kicking around when dinner time hits. You might not be aware of it, but the caffeine's keeping you awake. As a self-professed coffee lover (and addict), I know how tempting it is to have one final cup of coffee during that 3PM slump or how fantastic it feels to have a post-dinner cappuccino.
Just don't. It's guaranteed to mess up your sleep. Even if you fall asleep no problem, it's going to affect the quality of your sleep.
Turn Off Your Devices
I feel like I'm beating a dead horse here. Everyone and their mom has read dozens of articles about how the blue light emitted by our devices is disrupting our circadian rhythm. In case the message isn't clear yet: shut off your damn phone and TV! It's imperceptible, but it really does mess with your day-night cycle.
As an added bonus, try to limit your exposure to blue light. Flux is a fantastic plug-in for your devices that automatically reduces the amount of blue light emitted as you get closer to dusk. Second, you could try out blue-light filtering glasses like the ones sold by Felix Gray. Note that these are additives, not replacements for shutting off your devices.
Don't Charge Your Fucking Phone Next To Your Bed
As an addendum to the previous point, don't charge your fucking phone next to your bed. Ideally, put it in a separate room. Lord knows there have been too many nights where I've stayed up watching endless YouTube videos, leading me to feel like shit the next day.
Not only will it mess with your sleep but if you're anything like me, it'll also make getting out of bed in the mornings way harder. I would often spend 30/45 minutes just browsing the internet before finally getting up.
Have A Sleep Schedule
Your body loves a routine it can stick to. Going to bed at 9PM one day and at 3AM the next is a surefire way of getting your body's internal clock out of whack.
Ideally, you want to wake up and go to bed at the same time every single day. There will be days where you might sleep half an hour shorter as a result of needing to finish up a couple of things the night before. In those cases, better to stick with your normal wake-up time rather than pushing it back by 30 minutes. At that point, your body will prefer predictability over a couple of extra minutes of shut-eye.
Get Blackout Blinds
The lack of light is what signals our body that it is time to go to sleep. This is why limiting light exposure from devices is so important. But even small traces of light can significantly impact your sleep, whether it's from a streetlight that's barely shining into your room or from your TV light blinking because you forgot to turn it off.
One of the best investments you can make is to get blackout blinds. Make your room as pitch black as it can possibly be. The effects will be huge. Barring that, try using an eye mask (I love the Sleep Master)
Limit Your Naps
This goes without saying, but try to cut down on naps in the four to six hours before your bedtime. Not only do 20-minute naps carry the risk of turning into 3-hour ones, but they also send mixed signalling to your brain, leading you to struggle to fall asleep.
Buy High-Quality Shit
I was once told that I should be spend lavishly on everything that's between me and the floor on a daily basis. Every moment of our lives, we're either standing, walking, sitting down, or lying in bed. Every. Single. Moment. Therefore it makes sense to buy the highest quality shoes, chair, and mattress you can possibly find.
Spending just $200 extra on a better mattress and pillow can change your life. Even switching to a slightly better memory foam mattress can radically affect your sleep quality. Why skimp out on a mattress if you're going to be spending 1/3rd of your life on it?
More than anything else, sleep is about prioritization. It needs to be a priority or it's gonna get neglected.
If sleep is a luxury, it will be the first to go when you get busy. If sleep is what happens only when everything is done, work and others will constantly be impugning on the time you set aside for some shut-eye. But with boundaries and an understanding of the benefits of sleep—it becomes less optional and more about optimization.
Sleep is a force multiplier. Having two hours of extra high-quality sleep can make the difference between a mediocre day and a fantastic one. You'll be more alert, more creative, feel healthier, and be more productive. Very few masterpieces were made while being sleep deprived. And those who say they did are usually lying in order to market their work.
There's no downside to having a good night's rest. You can experiment with different approaches (like polyphasic sleep), but nothing will compare to having consistently good sleep.
Now go the fuck to sleep.