Let’s Denormalize the Toxic “No Sleep” Concept in Entrepreneur Culture

Being a full-time entrepreneur and business owner takes total sacrifice. You’re sacrificing time, money and a social life just to see big things happen for your company. Not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with that, because building a business or company from the ground up is a time-consumer. If you’re choosing to start and run your own business full-time, you need to be totally dedicated. I remember when I was first starting my digital media & editorial business, my schedule became hectic. I was spending every minute of my days and nights trying to get as much done as possible.

When you’re especially young, with no money, you sort of feel like you have to push and push until you overexert yourself. Things can start to feel chaotic because you don’t feel like there are enough hours in the day to get everything done. So, you start working through the nights. Sooner or later you realize that you just worked for more than 13 hours straight. It’s around four in the morning and you’ve tried to force yourself to continue working but you’ve finally tapped out. Most can say they’ve tried to sacrifice sleep alongside their social life and time, but what if I told you doing so is a danger to yourself?

An adult needs an average of 7-9 hours of sleep to function properly. It would make a lot more sense to be well-rested so that you can be up and at ’em for the day. But a certain hashtag movement that stemmed from Twitter seems to differ. You’ve probably seen #TeamNoSleep and “While you were sleeping I was chasing the bag”, or something along those lines while strolling on your Twitter feed. A dig at people who like to be well-rested enough to work, perhaps? Look, not to sound harsh, but your lack-of-sleep is not impressive. You may be “chasing the bag” while everyone else is sleeping, but you’ll also be chasing an early grave if you don’t get it together.

Sleep deprivation is beyond dangerous for your health and can cause severe side-affects such as memory loss, chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes, hallucination, and accidents that can cause serious injury or death. Not to mention, it kills your creativity and productivity. Just ask self-made millionaire & media mogul Arianna Huffington (yes, as in the founder of Huffington Post), who wrote an entire book on sleep and it’s extreme importance, after suffering a life-threatening fall in 2007, which ended up being “the best thing that could ever happen” to her, as she writes on Medium:

“It was a day I’ve talked and written about dozens of times — the day I collapsed from sleep deprivation and exhaustion, broke my cheekbone and woke up in a pool of blood. And it happened on April 6th, 2007, which makes today the 10th anniversary (thank you for all the cards and letters). But, actually, it is a day to mark for me, less for the symbolism of the anniversary and more for what’s happened in the decade since. For me, it’s a prime example of how good things can come out of bad things — how, very often, events that come to define our lives in positive ways would never have happened without events that were painful and sometimes, yes, even bloody!”

Fortunately, Arianna Huffington’s scary fall gave her the opportunity to share her story on how sleep is now an important part of her life, and looking into her book, I knew I had to make changes to my own life. Depriving yourself of sleep feels awful, and no amount of coffee-guzzling and just “sucking it up and getting out of bed” will change that. I promise that you are your least-productive self when you’re running on less than five hours of sleep, and you probably don’t even realize it. Your best work is when you’re well-rested and full of natural energy.

Besides feeling pressured by entrepreneurial peers, there’s one other main trouble that could cause someone to have an unhealthy sleep cycle. When was the last time you actually planned out everything you had to do and the exact times of when you wanted to get it done? Like physically jotting down all of your daily tasks could be the simple fix to this self-sabotage. Keeping a planner and a to-do list has saved me so much trouble of feeling scattered and working myself to death. There is something about physically seeing everything you want to accomplish at certain times written down that makes you feel grounded.

If you’ve failed at keeping planners in the past, start out with a blank sheet of paper and pen. Baby steps I guess, until you build up the persistence to keep an actual professional planner. The goal is to start creating a schedule that is realistic and doable. I think of it this way: create your schedule as if you were a manager at some big company and you were creating schedules for your employees. By law, and based on your state, your employees would be required to take a 15-min break every two hours and a lunch break every four hours, if they work eight hours or more. These laws were created for a reason: to prevent exhaustion, serious health problems and accidents amongst employees.

So why wouldn’t you give yourself a break or a meal period? You are your own employee, after all. We can’t allow such a toxic concept to plague the entrepreneur culture and send such a dangerous message. You need to sleep. Get 8-10 hours a night. If you’re tired throughout the day, take naps for God’s sake! They don’t have to be long naps, you can set your alarm on your phone of course. Your entrepreneurship doesn’t fade every time you rest. Your hard work will still be there when you wake up. If you have trouble sleeping at times (like I do) due to the millions of thoughts roaming through your head, turn on a nice ASMR video or relaxing sleep music on YouTube.