I never understood Arianna Huffington when she said “Discover the great ideas that lie inside you by discovering the power of sleep”. In fact, she seems to be among the very few successful individuals who regard sleep as something that is a tool for success, rather than a nuisance. After all, the rich and famous try to avoid sleep as much as possible in an effort to maximize the number of productive hours available to them each day. While reducing your sleeping hours certainly has a lot of short-term benefits, it is proven to be a terrible strategy in the long run.
Human beings have always known instinctively that sleep is one of the mainstays of a healthy life, right up there with food and water in importance. Recently though, medical science has shed even more light on some unanticipated benefits of getting adequate sleep. More sleep means better health, fortified immunity, and sharper focus on your work throughout the day. Things many of us don’t realize or give importance to, and neither did I till a year ago.
My Own Experience With Sleep Deprivation
All this scientific evidence and pep talks about the importance of sleep can lose their value when you are faced with a tight deadline, and just have to get some work done. I learnt this the hard way in the early days of my entrepreneurship. Back during my student life, I rarely got a full 7 hours of sleep, but at least I tried. Catching up on sleep over the weekend was always a given, except in special circumstances like final exams. It all changed when I started my own price comparison shopping startup Price-Oye. With a business of my own, there were no weekends, no public holidays, and certainly no nap time whenever I felt like it.
All I could think of was being the next Mark Zuckerberg, and petty things like sleep and food started looking like mere distractions to me. I always thought that single-minded determination is the only way to get your business off the ground. In the start, the strategy seemed to be working, as I toiled continuously on making my business grow fast, reducing my sleep to about 3 to 4 hours each day. Soon though, I saw why a lot of people have recently started theorizing that being an entrepreneur is not everyone’s cup of tea. Despite all my hard work and putting in the extra hours, my site wasn’t really doing as well as I had hoped. I could feel that the content wasn’t up to the mark, I was skipping new mobile releases, and most importantly, I just wasn’t enjoying myself.
I would have continued this way without realizing that lack of sleep was the culprit, but I was saved by a blessing in disguise. Lack of sleep often causes high blood pressure, and that’s what got me in the end. The doctor strictly ordered me to take complete bed rest for 2 weeks, and I had no option but to comply. In my effort to add a few hours to my work week, I ended up losing a solid two weeks—not including the time it took to get back to speed.
How I Benefited From A Regular Sleep Cycle
Thankfully I recovered fully, and learnt a valuable lesson; there is no alternative to a good night’s sleep. With my new work routine, I started noticing positive changes in my life and work ethic immediately. Here are some professional benefits I enjoyed by following a regular sleep cycle:
- My nagging illnesses, general lethargy, and the tendency to procrastinate vanished, or at least decreased significantly. This is owing to the fact that sleep boosts your immunity and can help in keeping you going for longer, without getting distracted or having to take a break.
- I started feeling and looking noticeably happier. Sleep is a known antidepressant, and I got to experience its magical prowess firsthand. In my sleep deprived state, I always felt a bit zombie-fied and my work was never really of the highest quality. Being well-rested changed all that for the better.
- Weight gain has long been a challenge for me, forcing me to continuously count my calories and getting worried about gaining pounds that I painstakingly shed. Believe it or not, sleeping well is a big help if you are trying to watch your weight. This might not seem directly related to my startup, but with my weight stable, not only was this one thing less on my mind, I also felt more in control of my life and what I was doing with it.
- My work almost entirely revolves around thinking power, memory and creativity. If I am not feeling fresh, there is no way I can give my 100% to the business. The difference between the sleep-deprived me and a well-rested me was plainly visible to me and my colleagues. No points for guessing which version everyone preferred!
If you are not in the habit of sleeping 7 to 8 hours every night, it will certainly take time for you to transition to a regular sleep cycle. At first, you may feel guilty for what you may think is ‘too much sleep’, but pretty soon you’ll see a dramatic difference in the quality of your work and life – it will feel completely worth it, then. Later, you might even start advocating for sleep like I do!
The author is the co-founder of Priceoye — a price comparison startup.