On the surface, sleep looks like a colossal waste of time. Think about it. We spend about a third of our lives lying down with our eyes closed...basically doing nothing!
It’s easy to see why high-achieving people throughout history - like Thomas Edison and Benjamin Franklin - aspired to get by with less of it.
Even today, people who are trying to maximize productivity are prone to shortchanging sleep so they can get more done. Twitter founder and CEO Jack Dorsey, for instance, reported he was only getting four to six hours of sleep per night in 2011. I’m sure you can think of plenty of others who have made similar compromises.
For most of us, though, this is not likely to be a winning long-term strategy. For one thing, we know now that sleep loss increases our risk of chronic disease, including diabetes, atherosclerosis, obesity, and more. Inadequate sleep duration and poor sleep quality are linked to most of the great maladies that plague the modern industrialized world.
But even beyond that insidious physical toll, research is now revealing that sleep loss also has a negative impact on our cognitive abilities. We need sleep for focus and attention, for staying alert, for learning and remembering things, and for a host of executive functions that are required to be at our best at work and in other endeavors. So, you might gain an extra hour or two if you cut out some sleep, but your ability to perform mentally during that time may be compromised, and you may actually get less done in the long run. Or the quality of your work may suffer.
You might think this doesn’t apply to you. But bear in mind that the cognitive impact of partial sleep loss can be quite subtle, and difficult to recognize in ourselves. This, of course, is why we need controlled studies to elucidate these effects.
In this episode of humanOS Radio, Dan speaks with Jeff Gish. Jeff has a Ph.D in Management from the University of Oregon, and is presently a professor of entrepreneurship at UCF.
His research focuses on the behavior of entrepreneurs, including the processes through which entrepreneurs decide to found new ventures and make business decisions. Recently, he has begun to explore how these processes are influenced by day-to-day variations in biological dynamics - including sleep.
He and his colleagues recently performed a series of elegantly designed studies which investigated how sleep, or the lack thereof, might affect two functions that are fundamental to the role of an entrepreneur: the capacity to generate new business ideas, and the ability to assess the viability of business ideas being presented to them.
These studies overall suggest that sleep plays a vital role in the cognitive processes behind successful entrepreneurship, and losing sleep makes it harder to recognize how a new technology or service might align with a market.
To learn more about the study and what he found, check out the interview!
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