According to Matt Walker, professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California and author of Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams, there are numerous reasons why people need to be getting eight hours of sleep a night. Several stand out as being of the utmost importance to entrepreneurs and leaders of teams.
Sleeping enriches a diversity of functions related to learning, memory, creativity, decision making and emotional regulation. So basically, all the important stuff your brain does.
Sadly, two-thirds of adults throughout developed nations fail to obtain the recommended eight hours of nightly sleep (the odds say you’re one of them). Utterances like ‘I can perform well on six hours a night’, and ‘eight hours is a pipe-dream’ are common.
And I get it. I said the same thing for almost 10 years, willing myself out of bed at 5 am for an early-morning workout, after having slept somewhere between six and seven hours. I’d judge people who slept until 7 am and write them off as lazy and undisciplined. During my twenties and early thirties, I’d think nothing of waking up at 9 am on a Saturday morning after having gone to bed, drunk, at 5 am.
I’d venture out for a 10-kilometre run, thinking it was the best way to recover, and boast about it later. I couldn’t fathom how my fellow revellers would sleep right on through to mid afternoon.
However, the science suggests that routinely sleeping fewer than six or seven hours a night demolishes your immune system and more than doubles your risk of cancer. And the thing about thinking six hours is enough is that you don’t know you’re sleep deprived when you’re sleep deprived.
On the creativity front, Thomas Edison would famously nap at his desk with two steel balls in both hands when challenged by a daunting problem. On the floor, directly below his closed hands, he placed metal saucers. As he entered what’s known as ‘the transitional state between wakefulness and sleep’ Edison would drop the steel balls onto the saucer, effectively waking him up. He’d then furiously write down anything he was thinking about just before he was awoken by the loud crash.
So with all of this in mind, here are nine ways to get a better night’s sleep.