Margaret Thatcher was famous for needing only four hours of sleep. That’s the popular wisdom, at least; her critics might argue that chronic sleep deprivation explains some of the iron lady’s policy decisions.
What researchers now appreciate about sleep is that, as your brain tires, it sucks energy away from the areas needed from critical thinking, in favour of those areas that keep you alert. So you can turn up–you just can’t think very well.
What is striking about leaders, however, is that even those who do get a decent eight hours a night are mostly early risers. According to their birdsong tweets friends Shaa Wasmund, author and founder of Smarta, gets up at 5 AM and Emma Jones, co-founder of StartUp Britain & founder of Enterprise Nation gets up at a similar time and during a recent interview the entrepreneur and TV dragon Peter Jones said that he gets up at 6 because, as he put’s it: “Life is too exciting to sleep.”
I suspect there’s a virtuous circle here: Great jobs make you want to get up early–and the better the job you do, the more exciting getting up early becomes. Could waking late could be a sign that your brain doesn’t like the day you have planned for it?
But with daily schedules starting so early what they do with those early hours? The very disciplined have learned not to start shooting out emails at 5 AM. At the very least, they park them draft until 8. Some go to the gym, or in Shaa’s case run along the beach of her beloved home town of Whitstable, Kent. Others use the time to think and collect their thoughts before the day begins.
For myself, I like to wake up early, at around 6, and lie in bed with iPad or laptop and go through emails, logging in to the various dashboards that report on the activities of parts of our business and plan the work that lies ahead of me. It means that, when I do get up, I feel mentally prepared.
However, the downside is that, as I live alone, I can become become so absorbed in doing things that I am still there at 9am, but before the phone starts to ring and my inbox chimes with new messages, those few hours are the most productive of the day and also map out the 8 or 10 hours that they precede.
If you’re sleeping late; what does that mean? Are you exhausted–or just disengaged?