The Science Behind Executive Sleep Habits

The Science Behind Executive Sleep Habits

There’s a reason that Jeff Bezos, Tim Cook, and Sheryl Sandberg have all enjoyed major successes inside and outside the boardroom — and it is directly tied to their sleep schedules. These CEOs all average at least seven hours of sleep a night – that’s much better than the national average – and they do so while running elite tech companies at the highest levels.

So what do these CEOs know that the rest of us don’t? They’ve come to realize that sleep is the engine that drives their success. This isn’t just some passing fad, every day more and more science comes out to support the claim that better sleep hygiene makes for a more effective employee. This comes at a time when our businesses have been running counter to that assumption for years, with over 70 million Americans reporting sleep disorders annually. We took a deep dive to see how much these CEOs sleep, how it affects their business, and how we can use it in our own lives for similar success.

Quality Over Quantity

For Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, sleep is the fuel that feeds his waking hours. More fuel makes for better decisions, stronger emotional control, and supreme confidence in his plans. Sleeping eight hours has become an invaluable part of his routine, and something that he doesn’t mince words or feels guilty about getting. In a recent interview, Bezos spilled his secrets on why he views sleep as the most important thing you can do for yourself — and for your business.

“Mostly, as any of us go through our lives, we don’t need to maximize the number of decisions we make per day,” Bezos said. “Making a small number of key decisions well is more important than making a large number of decisions. If you shortchange your sleep, you might get a couple of extra ‘productive’ hours, but that productivity might be an illusion.”

There’s science to back up what Bezos says. A recent study by the Harvard Business Review shows that sleep is a vital part of a fully functional neocortex. The neocortex is the part of the brain most associated with vital leadership skills like problem solving, reasoning, organizing, inhibition, planning, and executing plans. The study even gave a nod to Bezos by referring to these skill sets as, “executive skills.”

The Sleep Revolution Sweeping Facebook HQ

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, takes this idea one step further, advocating not just for her sleep, but for the sleep of her employees as well. Facebook has been at the forefront of sleep hygiene for its employees, offering flexible start times, and even a designated sleeping room on campus for tired employees to refresh themselves. It’s something that Sandburg views as necessary for good business practices.

“We have to acknowledge that not everyone can get the sleep they need,” Sandberg wrote in an article on Thrive Global. “So many people out there, so many single mothers and others, work multiple jobs, and we don’t have the safety net we need for people to make sure that they can take care of their own health, and that we help take care of them. It’s incumbent upon all of us who run companies… to make sure that people can make ends meet and have the ability to get a good night’s sleep.”

Sleep is fast being seen for what it is, a necessity and not a luxury. So if you feel your performance at work lagging, take a page out of these executives books and get a good night’s sleep. The results will speak for themselves.

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