Are Early Starts the Key to Success?

by | Nov 15, 2019 | Blog

5am wake ups for success seem to be the ‘secret’ that many CEOs share. But is it really necessary? Are their successful people who sleep past 10am?

  • Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX: 01:00 – 07:00
  • Tim Cook, CEO of Apple: 21:30 – 04:30
  • Bill Gates, Co-Founder of Microsoft: 24:00 – 07:00
  • Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group: 24:00 – 05:00
  • Jack Dorsey, Co-founder of Twitter: 22:30 – 07:30
  • Barack Obama, Former US president: 01:00 – 07:00
  • Jeff Bezos, Founder & CEO of 22:00 – 05:00
  • Ellen DeGeneres, TV Host: 23:00 – 07:00
  • Donald Trump, US President: 01:00 – 04:00

According to this list, no.

So do you need to deprive yourself of sleep to be successful? While CEOs sleep less on average than the standard recommendation of 8 hours per night, they average about 6 hours per night. Some CEOs report getting by with only 4 to 5 hours of sleep per night, such as Indra Nooyi, Sergio Marchionne and Herb Kelleher. Then there are those who manage to face the world with even less sleep. Fashion designer Tom Ford reportedly gets only 3, and Trump gets 3 to 4. Famous inventor Nikola Tesla apparently slept only 2 hours per night at times.

It does seem though that the common thread is not the amount of time slept, but the waking before 8am that these people share. And from a distance, maybe you can achieve more with less sleep. However, there are side effects to sleep deprivation, as one sleep-deprived, gaffe-prone tweeter proves on a regular basis; spelling seems to be a casualty of sleep deprivation, along with other basic life skills.

Most of us perform best when we have had 7 hours of restful deep sleep in the night. Studies prove this. So before you decide to change your life and potentially threaten your mental health, consider that the success of CEOs comes at a price.

It could also be a myth. We hear of, and even see, CEOs working 100-hour weeks. We also see them collapse when they contract a minor cold because they don’t have the resources to cope.

Some CEOs might be inclined to nap rather than sleep. Former British prime minister Winston Churchill reportedly slept just 5 or six 6 per night, but napped during the day.

There are some people who just naturally do not need as much sleep to function at their optimal level. While some people need 8 – 9 hours to feel refreshed and ready, others can function at a high level with a consistent 4 – 6 hours every night. It makes sense that these people are high achievers because they have more waking hours to contribute to their success.

However, your productivity is not based on hours, but on output. Placing too much stock in waking hours disadvantages you. You can still be productive, and maybe more efficient, if you sleep 8 hours per night, because you are working and sleeping in the way that best suits your needs.

What you do need to focus on is your schedule. Having good sleep hygiene is essential to any level of achievement. Create a routine and your success will follow.

  • Read a real book (not on an electronic device) to relax before sleeping
  • Write down 3 things you want to accomplish the next day
  • Turn off your mobile phone and other electronic devices. No TV in the bedroom
  • Keep your room dark, quiet, and cool
  • Keep a notepad beside your bed to write down anything playing on your mind
  • Have a set bedtime and waking time
  • Take 10 deep breathes upon waking and before moving in the morning
  • Sleep in clean sheets
  • Sleep with bed socks, earplugs and an eye mask if you are sharing a bed to help regulate your body temperature and have some privacy
  • Enjoy sex or sexual release before sleep – the hormones will help you relax and feel good while you drift off

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