This Entrepreneur contributor found that with more sleep, he had more energy and was able to work faster. He’s still finding that. Every night.
Right now, I’m running three multi-million dollar businesses, traveling full-time, networking like crazy and writing articles for numerous publications. Guess how much sleep I’m getting?
Probably more than you.
In fact, I sleep a lot. I average 9.25 hours of sleep a night, which is way more than most people, apparently! A Gallup poll reports that the average U.S. adult gets 6.8 hours of sleep a night.
In contrast, I’m clocking in at more than nine hours every night: I go to bed around 10 p.m. and sleep until 7:15 a.m.
When I wake up, I’m totally refreshed, completely stoked and ready for a day of serious hustle. Here are some tips for how you can follow my example.
I used to treat sleep as an annoyance.
I used to think of sleep as the world’s biggest inconvenience — a complete waste of time! Sleep kept me from building my businesses and getting stuff done. So I did what a lot of hard-working and hustling entrepreneurs did. I stopped sleeping.
Every day, I got up as early as possible — 5:30 or 6 a.m. I would go, go, go all day long until I crumpled into an exhausted heap around 1 or 2 a.m. It was insane.
That was when I was 23 and 24. I had more energy back then, I guess. Now, I can hardly stay up past 11 p.m. without feeling like death the next day.
Here’s what I changed.
Surviving on four hours of sleep a night is not for the faint of heart. I was pounding it daily, and I was succeeding. Sort of. But the sleeplessness just wasn’t worth it. And, because my sleep was suffering, everything else started suffering as well.
I started forgetting important things. My decision-making ability took a serious nosedive. The people I worked with would ask me simple questions, and I couldn’t answer. Mentally, I was losing it.
If I did get a solid night of sleep, however, everything would change. The next day, I’d be completely energized. I would remember details, make smart decisions and function way better.
The lesson was simple: Neil needs more sleep.
One day, I made a choice: I would get more sleep. I chose to get as much sleep as it took in order for me to function at 100 percent.
Why I now sleep a lot.
When I started getting more sleep, my life really improved. If I slept five or six hours, it took me ten hours to get a project done. But when I slept eight or nine hours, I could get the same project done in five hours.
Email takes up an inordinate amount of my workday. I reply to around 400 emails each day. When I was averaging four to five hours of sleep, it took me four hours to go through my email. Once I began sleeping for 9.25 hours, I got through my emails in 2.5 hours!
But I wasn’t done with my sleep overhaul: One problem that occurred when I was low on sleep was that tasks other than email took longer, too. For example, I spend a good portion of my day coming up with ideas to fine-tune my business and helping people within my team execute them. I was spending 2.75 hours a day doing this. Once I began getting more sleep, I was able to do this in roughly one hour a day.
Sure, as you get older and gain more experience as an entrepreneur, you learn how to be more efficient. But I found that with more sleep, I had more energy and was able to work faster. I still can.
Productivity is one thing, but the simple fact of personal care is another reason why I sleep a lot. I’ve learned that if you work with the right people, they will work hard in your business just as you would. This frees up your time and energy, allowing you to get the rest you need.
The more sleep I get, the more I’m able to achieve in less time. This is opposite from what most people think. We tend to think that if we sleep less, we’ll be able to accomplish more things. We’re awake, right? So we can do stuff, right?
But what are you actually doing in your half-dazed, sleep-deprived, brain-numb condition? You’re working slowly, inefficiently and miserably.
How do I do it?
How do I sleep nine-plus hours a night?
I know that not all of us can get the sleep we need. I realize that people who have inconvenient job shifts or small children might not be able to choose when or how they sleep. Others struggle with medical and psychiatric sleep conditions. Others, however, can get more sleep than they’re getting right now.
What helped me was, first, changing my mind about sleep. Instead of treating sleep like a problem that needed to be solved, I handled it like a business opportunity to be optimized.
I explain marketing to people in this way: If you spend $1 on marketing, and get back $2, then it makes perfect sense to put in more money. Spend $1,000,000 on marketing, and get back $2,000,000!
Sleep isn’t like Google Adwords, of course, but there are some similarities. If I put in 4.5 hours, I get in return frustration, laziness, time-wasting, forgetfulness and mismanagement. I also feel like crap. If I put in 9.25 hours, however, I get ten times the amount of productivity, power, smart decision-making and energy.
The solution, then, a no-brainer. Get more sleep.
The second thing that helped me was learning to sleep anywhere. I travel a lot, so I had to learn to sleep on airplanes. When I was just starting out as an entrepreneur, I couldn’t afford to buy business class tickets. I would sit in economy and try to sleep. It took a little bit of getting used to, but eventually, I was able to sleep in economy. When I upgraded to business class flights, I got even better sleep.
Now, I can sleep anywhere. I’ve fallen asleep in a crowded and noisy nightclub. In Lithuania, I had an eight-hour speaking engagement. I would catch 15-minute naps in between my sessions.
Practically, there are certain things I’ve discovered that will help me to sleep better each night. Some sleep professionals tell you to create a “sleep sanctuary” in your bedroom. I can’t do that, because I don’t own or rent a home. (I live out of hotels.)
Here’s what I do instead:
I reply to any emails that are gnawing at my mind. I want to be able to go to bed relaxed.
If it’s a bit warm, I turn up the AC.
I drink a small glass of water.
I wear pajamas. (They’re comfy.)
I use one pillow.
I use a blanket.
I purposefully think about relaxing my muscles.
I fall asleep really quickly.
I don’t set an alarm, because I know that my body will awaken when I have the right amount of sleep.
Do I have a lot of work to do? Yes, always. Running three businesses requires a ridiculous amount of responsibility.
But that’s why I hire smart people. I’m not the only one on the planet who can make financial or management decisions. Other people are just as qualified and capable. I am, however, the only one on the planet who can get the sleep I need. Other people can’t sleep for me.
Success isn’t just about eking out slightly higher-profit margins or boosting productivity. It’s also about living a fulfilled life — enjoying your relationships and your work.
For me, the best way I’ve found to enjoy it is by getting enough sleep.