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Success on little sleep?

Success in life with little sleep?

Success in life with little sleep? But what about health, energy for new things or the general quality of life? The early bird catches the worm ... - once upon a time! In the meantime, the eternal credo of busy managers with a chronic lack of sleep has become obsolete. Because new studies show: If you really want to be successful and productive, you have to sleep better and be well rested.

The most beautiful part of the night has long had an image problem: "A man sleeps four hours, a woman five, an idiot six," Napoleon already propagated. And even today, top managers and politicians like to boast about how little time off they need. Donald Trump, for example, only wants to sleep between one and five o'clock at night, Barack Obama also claims to get by on four hours of sleep, as does former railway boss Rüdiger Grube. And Angela Merkel is convinced she has a kind of camel's capacity for dealing with sleep: She can get by with really very little sleep for a certain period of time, but then needs another day when she sleeps ten, twelve hours, she says.

Being successful in life with little sleep seems to be mutually dependent. But in the meantime, the pursuit of performance in a continuous jet lag is increasingly being critically questioned: Does it perhaps even do more harm than good? What is a healthy sleep rhythm? Does lack of sleep lead to poor decisions and eventually to burnout? Does good sleep increase performance, well-being and success in life?

How too little sleep reduces success and well-being

Editor-in-chief and publisher Arianna Huffington is one of those managers who have bought success with little sleep and experienced the fatal consequences of chronic overtiredness first-hand. For half her working life, the media entrepreneur tried to get by on a minimum of sleep until she collapsed over her computer a few years ago and broke her jaw. That made the founder of the Huffington Post rethink. She researched the topic of sleep extensively and then wrote the 400-page book "The Sleep Revolution" about the growing sleep deprivation crisis.

Not only do many executives get too little rest, but most people in many countries do not give their bodies enough time off: according to a Gallup survey from 2013, two out of five Americans get no more than six hours of sleep per night. And a 2016 Forsa survey commissioned by the Knappschaft health insurance company found that 25 per cent of Germans sleep an average of only six hours a night, with nine per cent getting as little as five hours. Whether 6 hours of sleep is sufficient depends on the individual and cannot be generalised. Instead, the great lack of sleep in society has serious consequences: According to the survey, 31 percent of respondents are tired during the day, 24 percent suffer from mood swings and twenty percent have difficulty concentrating on their work.

The rampant "workplace fatigue", is not only damaging to health and personal well-being, but also on the economy: the US loses $63 billion in productivity every year due to lack of sleep, Huffington's research found. Writing in the Huffington Post, the editor-in-chief of the online newspaper said, "It's not just technology that stands between us and a good night's sleep. It's also our collective delusion that overwork and burnout is the price we have to pay to succeed." Instead, she has found that fatigue hurts the workplace and the home. Added to this is an unwillingness to invest in a proper sleep system: If you get a bad bed, you sleep badly. Without a good mattress and a proper pillow, even the few hours that the so-called performers still allow themselves cannot bring the necessary rest.

Not a normal case: getting through the day on little sleep

Huffington is convinced: "Lack of sleep leads to bad management. It is now scientifically proven that company bosses who slept too little would solve fewer problems and have worse ideas." Medical experts confirm that little sleep in no way underpins success: Even mild sleep deprivation limits abilities. Those who sleep only six hours for twelve nights are similarly overtired as if they had worked 24 hours straight and make correspondingly erratic decisions, stressed Harvard neurologist and sleep physician Josna Adusumilli in an interview.

In the meantime, more and more companies have recognised the negative consequences of poor or too little sleep on the productivity of their staff and the quality of management. The Huffington Post, Facebook and Google already offer their employees the opportunity to take a siesta in rest rooms.

The Aetna insurance company goes even further and now rewards its almost 50,000 employees for sleeping in: The largest American health insurance company has created an incentive system for this: For twenty nights with more than seven hours of sleep, the employees receive 25 US dollars - up to 500 dollars per year. Sleep duration is measured by a digital sleep diary or fitness wristbands.

The data is then analysed by a third-party provider. The investment pays off, Mark Bertolini, CEO of Aetna Health Insurance, is convinced. "Things are done faster when people are present and prepared. But you can't be well prepared if you're still half asleep," he said during a TV appearance on CNBC. Succeeding in life on too little sleep: The maths demonstrably doesn't add up!

With the initiative, Bertolini is doing both his health insurance and the employees a favour: In the meantime, a study has proven that through the health promotion programmes of Aetna Health Insurance, employees are productive 69 minutes longer per month. At the same time, the workforce should also be happier. After all, those who are rested suffer less from stress and can enjoy life more. Arianna Huffington also has the experience of how sleep brought success and well-being back into her life. When she started sleeping eight hours a night, she seemed to function better. She says: "I'm much more present, much happier and I'm undoubtedly a better leader because I can look forward with more clarity."