Does Sleep Really Impact Success?

Jack Kimball, Staff Writer

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Most believe that with 8 hours of sleep, they can have a rewarding and energetic day. That’s the social norm. But is this true?

It is rare that the most successful people in the world continually get 8 hours of sleep. President Trump only sleeps 3 hours a day. How is this possible when Donald Trump is required to function at a level that only his job calls for? Despite his unusual sleep habits, he holds one of the most powerful positions in the world and managed to win an electoral college victory.

President Barack Obama would only get 6 hours of sleep a night. When Obama was interviewed by Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan, he summarized his sleep habits. He said, “I’ll stay up until like 2 o’clock at night, reading briefings and doing work.” A New York Times report revealed that he cherished his alone time after dinner – away from the distractions his job placed on him.

History provides examples where a trend between unusual sleep habits and the success of a figure relates to each other. Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain during World War II, slept only 5 hours a night. Despite the significance of his everyday responsibility — to rally his people during the war — Churchill managed to be incredibly successful while sleeping very little.

Now, one could view this as just cherry picking to help support the claim that sleep doesn’t impact success. Modern-day successes such as Bill Gates and Tim Cook, both are acting CEOs of Microsoft and Apple, almost reach 8 hours a night. Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, follows suite sleeping 7 hours a night.

The United States Army only mandate 4 hours of sleep for soldiers in the field. Soldiers acting in the most stressful and unstable environments in the world are only required half the amount of sleep that most experts deem necessary. However, anything less than 4 hours of sleep the Army claims that soldiers become ineffective in completing their assignments.

There is no sleep formula for success and productivity. But there is a widespread belief and studies that sleep impacts it.

When people are short of time or looking for ways to increase productivity, they often cut into their sleeping schedule. Harvard University’s Healthy Sleep campaign urges against doing so. The campaign encourages the importance of sleep towards your mental and physical health. Obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Immune dis-functionality, and common cold symptoms are all found to be possible medical conditions someone may develop from poor sleep habits. The campaign states, “Most experts have concluded that getting enough high-quality sleep may be as important to health and well-being as nutrition and exercise.”

Why is it that despite studies, people continue to substitute sleep, hoping for success?

Success is defined as a favorable or desired outcome from one’s goals; the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence. Montessori education lists self-perfection as one of the tendencies of human nature. It is human nature for one to repeat an activity until they master it. Once one discovers a path that leads to success, it is human tendency to continue down that same path in future endeavors if it means accomplishing one’s goals. Human tendencies and the desire to succeed are impacted by sleep.

Human ignorance impacts sleep as well. The Sleep Health Foundation says people don’t know how essential sleep is to your well-being. Decisions people make such as drinking too much caffeine, alcohol, or taking sleep tablets, leads to not only addiction but also a loss of sleep. Eating and drinking late causes heartburn making it harder for one to fall asleep. The use of technology and exercising makes it difficult for one to wind down before sleep. The benefits of sleep are either not known by the majority of the public or just ignored – making it easier to formulate the idea that it’s logical to substitute it for success.

Will Sheskey, a Junior at Scituate High School, only gets about 6 hours of sleep a night. Sheskey plays running back for the high school’s football team and has been Boston Herald’s star of the week twice, Boston Globe player of the week twice, and Patriot Ledger player of the week and two-time nominee. Sheskey said, “On Fridays, I try to get around 8 hours or more, but during the week I often have to sacrifice sleep for school work.”

Jack Poirier, another Junior at Scituate High School, said he gets 9 hours of sleep a night. “Sleep prepares you for your day; if you are all tired and groggy, you won’t be able to take on the day and perform your best.” Jack is a three-time Patriot Ledger player of the week himself, leading Scituate high school’s basketball team in points for the season.

There is clear evidence people substitute sleep for success. Motivational speaker Eric Thomas has encouraged this notion, famously saying, “If you want to be successful, you gotta be willing to give up sleep. If you go to sleep, you might miss the opportunity to be successful.” This quote rings true for many, but it also demonstrates the many preconceived notions that substituting sleep for success provides people.

There is no concrete evidence that sleep impacts a person’s success. However, there is evidence that it can derail your health and physical well-being. Many ignore these effects because it’s human nature for someone to do anything they can to achieve success. Success comes in all shapes and sizes, and sleep happens to be a significant factor in one’s journey to success, just in various ways.


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