Sleep Less, Do More

Anita Sharpe makes an interesting connection between leaders who don't sleep a lot and business success. One IBM exec sleeps five hours a night. Martha Stewart sleeps four hours a night (although I wonder how much of that lost sleep is because of, well, legal concerns and worrying about adjusting to prison life). Lifeway Foods' CEO sleeps four hours a night.

In the past, we've written about power-napping centers and hotel chain design strategies. But perhaps we're on the wrong track.

Do we need to sleep more? Or less?

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  • Ernest Semerda

    The amount of sleep a human needs has not been scientifically verified so it's hard to draw conclusions on this and long it's term side effects. However the question on sleeping less to do more in life is easily verifiable and whether success comes from sleeping less is all about what you do with your extra time.

    After becoming interested in this subject last year, I did some research and posted my preliminary findings on my blog about "sleeping less and having more energy" here:

    Since then I have taken further steps in documenting my journey in cutting down my sleep time. The short story is yes sleeping less is possible as long as you can get "Quality" sleep. Quantity is not important as long as it's more than 4 hours and less than 10. Your psychology also plays a factor.

    I will be blogging on my results & how one can achieve this in the coming month here:

    Have fun guys and enjoy every wakeful moment!

  • sarah

    any advise on how i can train myself to sleep less and have more energy? is there any techniques to follow? in college i used to sleep 6-7 hours and had alot of energy, then i started to sleep 8 hours a night and feel OK now i feel like i'm sleeping longer and longer every night and don't have much energy as i used to, but after all i'm getting older too!

  • Nathan

    There were quite a few people who can pull it off. I'm training myself to do it. Also the "trick" is that by reducing time spent on sleep you will instead force the body to enter REM quicker and leave sooner, resulting in a deeper, shorter sleep.

  • JohnyQ

    I used to work for almost 20 years in the IT business, eventualy ending up running my own company. For about 10 years, I used to work 12 to 16 hours a day, eat, goto bed for a few hours, 4-6 and get back to work. Eventualy, I was so burned out, it took me 2 years to recover from the abuse I put my body through, I felt contineously tired and slept 12 - 14 hours a day. Now I am recovered from that and sleep an average of 8 hours a day. Was it worth it? In my case, yes. Why could I do it? The business, the dream, the commitment. That summs it about up for me.

  • Guillaume

    It's funny to see that this post was written back in August 2004 and comments are still coming in August 2007. I guess this is probably because of the search "how to sleep less" on Google and the result with this blog...

    I am quite intrigued about different ways to sleep less but still being able to be effective at work and not sleepy when awake. I have always heard that doing some regular exercise like running 3 times a week is also boosting your energy and makes you less tired. Having said that, when I read a book, I could struggle to keep awake if late at night. This doesn't apply when I am connected to the Internet and read my favourite blogs or watch the TV.

    Any idea why?

  • Jackie

    I used to sleep for about 5 hours a night, but now I'm always tired. I sleep for about 12 hours and even then, after two hours of reading, I feel that I'd rather get back to sleep. This is killing me as I'm supposed to spend about 6 hours a night studying. My doctor prescribed me antidepressants, but I'm still tired!!!

  • Mike

    Contrary to some of the previous comments, I too sleep about 3-5 hours a night, and I always have energy. This has been the case for about 20 years. I don't work crazy hours (8 to 12hr/day) and I don't think I'm better than anyone because of these habits (as someone previously stated.) If I sleep longer than this, I just feel more tired. I guess it's just how my body works.

  • LostPlanet

    I have a habbit of sleeping for more than 9 hours and waking late in night upto 2'O clock. Only when I feel tired & my eyes got paining, I go to bed.

    This habbit of mine is making me very lazy in the day time, when I am at work. In the later hours of my office, I recover the lost memories of daytime work left & then I start working to that, so got delayed at home.

    I donnow, whether this habbit of mine makes me lazy or due to me being lazy I got this, which makes me indisciplined all the time and mostly delays my work. I am telling lies to ppl for unwanted delays.

    Help Me.

  • Jenny

    I am reading this because I have been really exhausted lately, and typically I am one of those who has a lot of energy and only sleeps 4-5 hours. Lately I have been sleeping at least 8 hours a night and I wake up exhausted. My doctor has run every test know for exhaustion, and every thing has come back negative. Something I have noticed lately is that if I'm going to sleep between say 11 and midnight. My body seems to be wide awake and ready to go at between 4-5am. I was just wondering if some people do better on less sleep. This is the first time in 2 months that I actually felt good in the morning and it was on 4 hours. I don't know but I just seem to be more awake and energetic on less sleep.

  • Phil

    Hey I beleive that you shouldnt sleep more than 4 hours a day. I have a freind that was exhausted during the day everyday, he asked me what I did to keep so energized I told I sleep 4 hours a day and advised him to do the same. He did, and now the guy is so full of energy he decided to get into the same business I'm in and now he's in the 6 figure income bracket. Try it for a couple of months, you'll see how much more you can do with some extra time on your hands.

  • Juan Guirao

    If someone is sleeping 4 hours a night and working 14-16 hours a day, he/she just does not know how to work efficiently.

    It is not just not healthy, it's plain stupid.

    But supposing you want to have more time and feel more energetic...

    Some people manage to sleep less and be healthier by doing a lot of meditation and relaxation, but you have to count the hours spent on meditation. They say adding both you can still save sleep/meditation time and feel more energetic, than just sleeping.

    For example:
    Just sleep 8 hours....Normal Energy
    Sleep 4 hours + Meditation 3 hours....High Energy

    But I never managed to meditate so long...I fell asleep :)

    Juan Guirao

  • Lynne Mack

    If you read up on what all the health professionals say - traditional and alternative. They strongly recommend 6-8 hours sleep per night. And some advocate the less sleep the shorter your life span. Perhaps it just depends which 'flavour of the week research' the 'experts' are being funded on. I read somewhere that Einstein and da Vinci among others had power naps during the day. A scenario not suited to most corporate life.

  • Tom

    I think Tord has it. I read an article recently in a health magazine in which a sleep researcher said that everyone they had ever tested performed better on 7-8 hours sleep than on a lesser amount.

    I think a lot of high-energy people just can't force themselves to go to bed, but who knows - they might do even better things if they got more sleep.

  • Tord

    A few years ago I owned an Internet startup together with a few friends. It was a dream come true for all of us. The ability to work with exactly what we wanted lit that infamous spark in our minds and recharged us throughout the day in such a way that we only slept for 4 hours on average every night.

    After doing this for around 18 months we all got, well, tired. The Internet market went belly up and we sold our company... I now work for an entirely different company, sleep 6 to 8 hours every night and put in the requested 8 hours a day at work.

    When I look back I think I can safely say that 4 hours sleep is not what makes you or the company you lead successful. Not at all. But the hard work that results in that much sleep might be it!

  • David

    What a silly subject. Who cares how much Donald Trump sleeps? Oh Maaaaaaaaaartha - what's the point of 500 thread count sheets?

    This is another case of loud machismo, even when it comes from a woman.

    Let's hear from the people who are wildly successful (not to be confused with merely wildly rich) and who sleep a sound 7-8 hours a night. Isn't Martha going to prison? Isn't Donald Trump fighting to hold onto his ass-ets?

    Besides that, this smacks of that flat-out-ridiculous-yet-fantastically-common promotional phrase in these great unites states of bravado, "Results Not Typical."

    Couldn't we look at the successful people in our local communities whose companies provide great products and give great caring service while creating greatness for and by everyone involved? What those people are doing is far more interesting and relevant to the average successful person's life than what we think we know about the famous untouchables like Trump and Stewart.

    As another blogger has said, the truth of my neighbor's success habits is more verifiable, too.

    Enough with Results Not Typical.

    Posted at 4:04 a.m. Aren't you impressed?

  • julien

    Isn't it so cool to say you're such a busy and important person that you sleep only 4-5 hours a night? That's why probably these people are lying. They have a tough couple of days once a month and end up saying they never sleep more than 4-5 hours a night. The good thing is often that nobody can check

  • Gerald McBoingBoing

    I often sleep 4-5 hours a night but I only operate well on this much sleep when I am really excited and driven by a project. That said, I have often worked with people who claim to sleep 4 hours a night and work 14-16 hour days. I know they weren't really working the day hours, their schedule just slipped so they were working a different shift and convinced themselves they were still starting at the same time. The sleep seems to work the same way, it's very macho to claim you work 18 hours a day and sleep 4. Great way to psych your competitor into losing sleep and going insane.

  • Dyanne

    I read one time that Donald Trump only got four hours of sleep at night as well. I actually worked with a guy years ago that was trying to train himself to only need 4 hours of sleep at night. I never did find out if he was successful in his "training" but I would love to be able to function normally w/only 4 or 5 hours of sleep.

  • Jason

    I've hypothosized on this before and I wonder if it is because they are doing so much that their mind and body recharges throughout the day. People who do normal work may not spark something in their brain that could recharge them. or something...