Waking up at 4 a.m. seems to have become a prerequisite to great entrepreneurship. Tim Cook, Bob Iger, Melanie Hobson and Michelle Obama all famously rise before the sun. But waking up at 4 a.m. is not what creates impactful people, and actually, research shows a lack of sleep may be costing those emulating their idols their mental health and decision-making abilities.
Americans sleep, on average, less than seven hours a night–less than the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends. But between the demands of work and home, a sacrifice needs to be made and it is usually sleep. But what are the consequences of not sleeping?
A study by Harvard Medical School and the University of Pennsylvania found that performance and decision-making skills plummet for those getting four to six hours of sleep. A different study by Harvard Medical School found that sleep deprivation impacts learning and causes long-term memory loss. “Lack of adequate sleep affects mood, motivation, judgment and our perception of events,” it states. Another study by the prestigious medical school links poor sleep to anxiety and depression. Cumulatively, not only does a lack of sleep impact the trajectory of your career, but it deteriorates your mental health and happiness.
With this considerable research, the Harvard Business Review concluded that instead of waking up at 4 a.m. and depriving yourself of sleep, that the best thing you can do for your work performance is to choose sleep over work. “But when we choose work over sleep, what we are really doing is choosing quantity over quality,” writes Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a professor of business psychology at Columbia University and University College London. “If you want to be the best version of yourself — at work, at school, and at home — it would be wise to take advantage of what a good night’s rest can offer: sharper focus, higher alertness, better endurance, and a more positive mood and mindset.”