“Sleep is for the weak,” claim the blogs that pop up ahead of huge media festivals like SXSW and Cannes Lions. And it’s certainly tempting to fall into that mind-set; there are so many parties to go to, so many people to meet, that you justify to yourself that you’ll catch up on rest when you get home.
This kind of thinking is hard to shake, especially among perpetually jetlagged leaders who will forgo rest in order to never miss a meeting, believing that catnapping on planes and trains is enough. But sleep is far from a luxury, and depriving yourself of rest can do more damage than good.
Ditch the myth that sleep is a luxury
“There is this kind of founder myth that if you are a founder you can’t afford to get enough sleep,” says Arianna Huffington. “The truth is, three quarters of start-ups fail, and if founders got more sleep they’d have a better chance of succeeding.”
Promoting rest as a “non-negotiable” necessity has been on The Huff’s agenda for a couple of years now, ever since she collapsed from exhaustion. “We now have the most amazing science that proves without doubt, sleep deprivation affects every aspect of our health and our productivity,” she says.
Get more than six hours
A recent sleep deprivation study found that at the end of two weeks, test subjects who were limited to a maximum of four and six hours’ sleep each night suffered from “significant cumulative, dose-dependent deficits in cognitive performance on all tasks.” In fact, their cognitive performance suffered to the same extent as people who had been kept awake for two whole days. Conversely, people who were given a maximum of eight hours performed significantly better in all tasks.
“Fixing bad sleep habits to get enough sleep is easier said than done,” says Fast Company’s Jill Duffy. “But if you’re functioning as if you hadn’t slept for two days straight, isn’t it worthwhile?”
Change your bedtime routine (and cut out the blue light)
It’s not just the duration of sleep that can affect your productivity, but also the habits and rituals that surround your rest. Extended use of electronics before bed, such as checking your emails or watching one last episode of your favourite show on Netflix, can make it much more difficult to fall asleep; the so-called “blue light” effect.
Cutting down on your use of technology in the lead-up to sleep can have a beneficial impact, as does implementing tools which cut down the amount of blue light emitted by your devices. F.lux achieves this on desktops, while Apple introduced a “Night Shift” mode as part of its new iOS.
“It’s not yet clear if display spectra adjustments like these are enough to offset the impact of the increased blue light from LCDs,” writes Joel Hruska at Extreme Tech. “Until new display technologies come of age, adjusting existing display light levels is the best we can do — unless you want to pay big bucks for a pair of glasses with an expensive, blue-specific notch filter, anyway.”