By Johnathan Prichard, Founder and CEO of MattressInsider.com, which specializes in custom mattresses made in any size or shape.
Sleep deprivation shouldn’t be something people brag about like it’s a badge of honor for others to admire, yet that is exactly the culture entrepreneurs live in today. While scientists report that adults need seven or more hours of sleep each night for optimum physical and mental health, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that more than one out of three American adults (35.2%) get less than that on a regular basis.
The most recent study conducted by the CDC was published in 2014, so today’s reality could be even worse. Based on the amount of sleep deprivation bragging going on, I’d say it’s safe to assume that the percentage today is much higher than what was reported seven years ago.
We all know who the braggers are. Chances are you know at least one of them, or you may be one yourself. With well-known entrepreneurs and business leaders speaking about their own sleep deprivation in recent years, it’s not surprising that so many people think it’s the key to success.
As it turns out, that success is likely to be short-lived and come with negative effects. Elon Musk has publicly stated that his lack of sleep harmed his physical and mental health, and Arianna Huffington left the company she founded after a lack of sleep took its toll and led to a physical injury.
Slowly but surely, the word is getting out that sleep deprivation is not something to brag about. However, we need to speed up awareness about this and spread those conversations to more people in order to fully break the cycle.
The Dangers Of Sleep Deprivation
There have been numerous studies conducted over the years that draw a direct line between sleep deprivation and an increased risk of various illnesses, problems and diseases. The CDC has also reported that adults who get less than seven hours of sleep per night are more likely to have chronic health conditions than those who get enough sleep.
The top 10 conditions tied to sleep deprivation according to the CDC’s research are:
• Heart attack
• Coronary heart disease
• COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
• Chronic kidney disease
Add to the list above all of the short-term problems caused by lack of sleep, and the evidence is irrefutable that a lack of sleep is not something to be proud of. For example, sleep deprivation is known to decrease cognitive function, motivation, focus and stamina. It also makes people more irritable, compulsive, anxious and these symptoms often increase the likelihood of people blaming others for errors or problems. Individuals operating on less sleep are also more likely to be less cooperative and are more likely to exercise poor judgment.
Shifting The Badge Of Honor
So why do entrepreneurs buy into the scam that less sleep is a good thing, when all of the science shows the opposite is true? A 2019 study published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research found that men who sleep less are perceived more positively and as more masculine than those who get a full night’s sleep. As a result, their self-perceptions are impacted as well.
So, is it just a masculinity thing? Based on the CDC research, which found that nearly the same percentage of men (35.5%) and women (34.8%) sleep less than seven hours per night, it would seem that masculinity isn’t the only factor.
For entrepreneurs, wearing sleep deprivation like a badge of honor started as a bandwagon trend where people saw others doing it and jumped on board. After all, no one wants to be judged as less committed, motivated, passionate, successful and so on.
Unfortunately, the bandwagon trend has turned into an accepted cultural norm — one that needs to change before entrepreneurs experience widespread burnout.
The Next Steps To Change The Narrative
As we come out of the Covid-19 pandemic, we face a perfect opportunity to re-educate people about the need for sleep and its positive effects on success. We need to start wearing a good night’s sleep as a badge of honor and questioning people who claim sleep deprivation is a good thing.
With that said, here are three quick tips to improve your basic sleep hygiene:
• Relax before you get into bed by turning off electronic devices at least 30 minutes before you try to sleep at night. The blue light from these devices has been known to negatively affect sleep. Instead, read a book or meditate.
• Avoid stimulants like caffeine after dinner. Research shows the effects of caffeine can last for three to seven hours, so plan that last soda, tea or coffee early enough that it doesn’t disrupt your sleep.
• Create an environment conducive to sleep. Ensure your bedroom is dark, quiet and cool. Invest in a bed set that is comfortable.
It’s time to shift the focus back to healthy sleep hygiene, just like we prioritize other types of physical and mental health hygiene. Sleep should be baked into our wellness routines, and the first step is to stand up and proudly say, “I got seven (or more) hours of sleep last night, and I feel more motivated, more focused and so amazing!”
Remember, you’re not just imagining that you feel better. The science proves you are actually feeling better and are more productive when you get enough sleep, which positions you for more success in business and life.
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