For corporate executives in America, sleep is often that rare luxury they don’t have or can’t buy.
Success, especially early success, rarely comes without a few nights, but there’s a realization among the most well-known market leaders that burning the night oil isn’t a smart long-term strategy for productivity.
“I’ve tried to sleep less, but even though I’m awake longer, I’m able to do it less. And the brain pain is bad if I sleep less than six hours a night,” Elon Musk said in a recent interview with CNBC’s David Faber.
“I knew I wasn’t as perceptive when I was primarily into caffeine and adrenaline, but I was obsessed with work,” Bill Gates said in a blog post back in 2019.
Nike CEO John Donahoe leads a hectic life, dealing with a variety of issues that are both predictable, such as managing margins for a Wall Street that quickly turns sour at signs of financial distress, and the geopolitics of a massive US corporate presence in China and the social, cultural and political issues that have made corporations the target of both right and left factions.
This is a list of problems that can lead to trouble sleeping.
Well aware of this health risk, Donahoe told attendees at the recent CNBC CEO Council Summit in Santa Barbara, California, that he conducted a self-experiment to manage his sleep to fit his life and work needs. Donahoe can’t get seven hours of sleep every night, but he said he tries to get in for 70 hours of sleep every 10 days. Achieving that goal and not knowing exactly how much sleep he’s getting per night is a sleep science workaround that the Nike CEO says has worked for him.
However, this will not necessarily work for you. Several sleep experts polled by CNBC find Donahoe’s approach inadequate. Sleep science research has consistently shown that the average adult should aim for seven hours of sleep each night. However, scientists emphasize that the ideal length of sleep varies from person to person. Some people need more, some less. And given the demands of some professions, seven hours may not be feasible.
According to sleep scientists, the key is giving your body time to rest, which is crucial to increasing attention span and improving overall health.
Don’t rely on other people’s sleep tricks. study yourself
According to sleep experts, it’s not always the recommended seven hours of sleep that makes for a good night’s sleep. They say the most important place to start is to sleep according to your circadian rhythm, maintain a consistent bedtime, and avoid stimulants like caffeine after lunch.
Everyone has a circadian rhythm, which is defined as “an internal clock that synchronizes all physiological functions in the body.”
These rhythms affect how we sleep, and it’s important to keep these clocks in sync.
To help us pinpoint these patterns for ourselves, there are apps like Circadian, which plot your daily activities in an easy-to-understand chart to keep you in tune with your circadian rhythms. Smartwatches have also been shown to study circadian rhythms based on experience and provide clues on how to adjust if needed. Most everyday consumer technology that we carry or wear now offers some form of sleep tracking, whether it’s from a third-party app or from the device manufacturer. The Apple Watch has a Sleep app, as does Samsung’s Galaxy phone, Google Fitbit, and the Oura ring.
Sleep is an important pillar of health
dr Mark Wu, a professor of neurology and sleep medicine at Johns Hopkins University, says insufficient sleep at night is a major problem in today’s society.
“We consider sleep to be one of the most important pillars of health,” Wu said. “There are many things that can go wrong if you don’t get enough sleep. There are acute and chronic problems. In the acute phase, you’re basically sleepy the next day. Then attention is reduced, and attention is the basis for all your mental processes. Not getting enough sleep can have long-term health consequences.
Science suggests that prolonged waking up, like Musk and Gates once did, equates to alcohol poisoning. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), being awake for 24 hours is equivalent to a blood alcohol content of 0.10%. The legal limit for driving in the United States is 0.08%.
sleep, cardiovascular system
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute says that not only does not getting enough sleep each night affect how we think, but it can also affect our cardiovascular, metabolic, respiratory, and immune systems.
When our circadian patterns are out of sync, the risk of disease increases.
Lack of sleep has been shown to promote glucose intolerance, which can lead to diabetes even in apparently perfectly healthy individuals. Obesity is another risk, as insufficient sleep can impair the part of the brain that controls our hunger. Blood pressure is also a concern. The less sleep we get, the higher our blood pressure rises, putting us at risk for heart disease and stroke. The worst forms of sleep deprivation have serious health effects. For example, insomnia is associated with a higher risk of developing depression.
A nine-year study conducted at Ball State University found that sleep deprivation has increased across all labor force groups in the United States in recent years, although the risk is higher in some occupations. The rate of short sleep duration has been found to be particularly high among individuals working in security and military, healthcare, manufacturing, and transportation.
dr Jagdish Khubchandani, a professor of public health at New Mexico State University and a contributor to the Ball State study, says managing sleep is part of work-life balance that we need to be leaders in maintaining. In that sense, Nike’s CEO is taking the right approach.
“You are the No. 1 player,” said Khubchandani. “In the American workforce, this is where we need to start thinking. There is no one here monitoring my sleep and I have to take care of myself.”