Is Sleep Even Necessary for Entrepreneurs?

April 28, 2015

5:00 pm

In recent years, startup founders have really become associated with that hustle and grind, so, I mean, is sleep even necessary for entrepreneurs?

Last week, in the process of writing an article on 35 tips before quitting your job and becoming an entrepreneur, I happened to stumble upon a blog post arguing that “sleep is the cousin of death.” In the post, entrepreneur Ross Simmonds shines light on several methods startup founders can utilize to help them stay up later. But, would staying up that additional one or two hours actually help an entrepreneur in achieving what they want to achieve?

Sleep is Evil

In the post by Simmonds, he argues that entrepreneurs can have more time dedicated to hustling if they didn’t have to deal with the roadblock of sleeping. But, I mean, he’s far from the only person on this earth who believes this. Indeed, from the Men’s Journal to TIME, many have argued that committing less hours to sleeping could actually benefit a person rather than harm them.

Those in this camp of the sleep debate argue that one’s overall productivity is affected by this need to go to sleep; if only we were afforded with more waking hours throughout the day, we’d be able to get more stuff done. And it’s by no means a small camp of supporters. Throughout several productivity and life hacking websites, you’ll find various strategies on how to sleep less without slacking on productivity. “Sleep hacking” has now become a popular term to refer to our mortal battle with sleep (and this hacking has been portrayed prominently on various online media – this episode of High Maintenance is a pretty good example).

But how effective is sleep hacking, really? And what effect on our bodies does less sleep produce?

The Argument for More Sleep

On the other end of the spectrum, there are those entrepreneurs who argue that startup founders aren’t sleeping enough, and that it’s actually hurting their companies. This camp argues that we’re all mere human beings, faced with the limitations of our human bodies: without sleep, that various parts of our body will fall apart, eventually leading to our demise.

One of the most notable proponents of sleep is Arianna Huffington, arguably one of the most successful women entrepreneurs. Previously a supporter of late-nights and working way past regular hours, Huffington’s opinion on sleep changed when she found herself collapsing as a result of burnout on one evening during The Huffington Post‘s second year. For Huffington – and for countless of other entrepreneurs – sleep is actually essential to success; without sleep, you’re simply less productive, no matter your amount of motivation.

There’s a large amount of scientific research on sleep that supports the claims laid out by this camp. A lack of sleep will not only affect our overall productivity, but will also contribute to an overall decay of our brains – affecting us in the form of hallucinations, risky decision-making, and false memories. For entrepreneurs on this side of the sleep argument, no matter how convinced we may be of our level of productivity per our less hours of sleep, the effects on our brains prove otherwise and could lead to long-term deterioration.

So, Which Side is Right?

But when it comes down to it: which side wins the sleep debate? There are historical and modern examples of very successful people both surviving on very little sleep and putting in more than eight hours; from Thomas Edison, who slept a mere three to four hours, to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who gets a full eight hours of sleep everything. How much sleep do you get as a startup founder? Do you think that entrepreneurs need to sleep? Or, is sleep for the weak? Let us know in the poll below! And if there are any sleep tactics that you utilize, let us know in the comments!

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Ronald Barba was the previous managing editor of Tech.Co. His primary story interests include industry trends, consumer-facing apps/products, the startup lifestyle, business ethics, diversity in tech, and what-is-this-bullsh*t things. Aside from writing about startups and entrepreneurship, Ronald is interested in 'Doctor Who', Murakami, 'The Mindy Project', and fried chicken. He is currently based in New York because he mistakenly studied philosophy in college and is now a "writer". Tweet @RonaldPBarba.

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