Sleep more and you will perform in a more intelligent way, be better in teamwork and generally live a happier and longer life. These are few of the core takeaways for me from Arianna Huffington’s mission to make our life healthier – in her book, “Sleep Revolution” and numerous public appearances. I personally have at least some anecdotal evidence for this – the days after 9-hour sleep I do feel better, smile more, make better decisions and execute more. I am happy not being alone here – e.g. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos sleeps 8 hours every night and is happy that his decisions are much better due to this habit, even if he does less of these; President Clinton has said his worst decisions were made in sleep-deprived state.
Modern world seems to live under collective delusion thinking about sleep as something to be minimised (as it can not be fully avoided) and cultivating the myth of a never-sleeping founder. Being an all-nighter is in highly competitive working cultures (entrepreneurship, banking) almost felt to be like a ‘badge of honour‘ – if one doesn’t work till 2 o’clock in the morning it might be perceived like slacking off. In fact being exhausted has the same kind of effect to our brain as being drunk. Why would the former be acceptable at working hours more than the latter?
Can it be that an entire civilisation is mistaken? Yes it can – just remember the time everybody believed earth being flat or thought that smoking is glamorous, if not even healthy.
So how much sleep does one need? Apparently the average need for adult person is 7-9 hours and when sleeping constantly less than 7 hours we are not able to fully use all our cognitive resources. This is the reason why Mark Bertolini, CEO of Aetna has implemented a policy for additional bonuses paid for employees who can prove they had at least 7 hours sleep for 20 nights in a row. This achievement is then rewarded by 25 USD per night (up to 500 dollars annually) and the effect to raised productivity is measurable. Isn’t this a good example to follow? The same phenomenon is confirmed by a report by the Rand corporation revealing that those who get enough sleep have an additional 5 days of productive time each year. And lost time due to sleep deprivation adds up to about 1.23 million missed working days, or $411 billion, a year in the US only.
Most people tend to have a personal preference for working hours and do know their most productive time for work – so why force them to be in the office at the same time with others with different inner rhythm for work and sleep? Wouldn’t it be better for many to work from 11am till 7pm instead if they prefer so and therefore avoid rush hours in traffic and also keep your office less crowded at all hours? I am sure that flexibility like this would help to increase the bottom line through improved cognition and productivity. Of course, it is true that some common time is needed with most employees, but not for all of them all the time. Anyway there is no excuse for wasting the best of the human resources and forcing majority of executives being in a constant sleep-deprivation state like a recent McKinsey survey reveals.
A great article about sleep goes so even so far as to suggest not wake up children if they don’t wake up in time for school themselves. Sleep is worth to skip some early classes at school, says dr Piotr Wozniak.
I am with Arianna Huffington in her hope that we are near a culture shift – people are getting more aware about health issues, companies are changing their views on sleep and other things that makes our life balanced and happy. I suggest that sleep-friendliness is going to be one of the measures of an employee-friendly and healthy organisation, much in line and in combination with the flexible working hours, nap rooms and free vacation policies.