And so to bed… But for how long?


The stories are now legend. She would have a whisky and go to bed around two. By six she was wide awake again, arguing on the phone with Gorbachev.

Of course, I’m talking about Margaret Thatcher, the woman who famously managed on three or four hours sleep a night. Yes, the stories may have been embellished to add to the ‘iron lady’ image but it’s well documented that Mrs T. managed with an amount of sleep that would see most of us wiped out after three days.

Hugely successful American businesswoman Martha Stewart claims to need a similarly low amount of sleep, whilst Isaac Newton is reputed to have slept for two hours a night and worked for the other twenty-two. Meanwhile Barack Obama is apparently a-bed by 1:00, before the White House press secretary brings him a cuppa and the crisis report at 7:00.

Away from making a fortune, watching apples fall and ruling the free world, I go to bed around 11:00 and I’m up by 6:00 or, occasionally, 6:30. I’m fine with that – seven hours seems to get me through the week effectively and (hopefully) efficiently. But then I need to crash out for one day at the weekend, sleeping for maybe nine or ten hours as my body – and my brain – recover.

And according to the latest research it’s letting your brain recover that’s important. While you’re asleep your brain cells apparently shrink, opening up gaps between the neurons so that fluid can ‘wash your brain clean.’

When you’re running your own business it’s tempting to try and manage on less sleep – especially when you’ve deadlines to meet. It’s equally tempting to work longer hours and sacrifice your weekends. Don’t. Work/life balance is important and work/sleep balance counts every bit as much.

The effects of sleep deprivation are well documented. Doctors make more mistakes after long shifts. Sleep deprived drivers are as dangerous as drivers who’ve been drinking. And without enough sleep we’re all likely to make bad business decisions as our ability to concentrate decreases.

As always, the best advice is simple. Do what works for you. We all have certain times of day when we’re at our best and we all have amounts of sleep that work for us. Your Granny’s wisdom: ‘an hour before midnight is worth two after’ may no longer apply – and with the global 24/7 economy, ‘early to bed, early to rise, makes a man happy, wealthy and wise’ doesn’t seem quite so sound either. It’s always early morning somewhere: I could roll out of bed at 11:00 and still impress my TAB colleagues in Denver.

So find out what works for you and structure your day round it. One of my friends is a certified lunatic who regularly e-mails me at 5am. But then he freely admits that he’s ready for bed at nine. By the same token I receive some remarkably lucid e-mails sent at midnight. And later…

I’ve heard the argument a few times that the self-employed/owners of SMEs are ‘morning’ people – and go to bed earlier than the general average. I’m not so sure that’s right. I wonder if there really is an ‘entrepreneur’s body clock?’

Without giving away too many of your more intimate secrets this is one where I’d really like to hear your views and opinions – and what works for you. But for me, there’s five minutes of Jools Holland on the Sky planner and then it’s bed.

Have a great weekend – and sleep well…

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6 comments

  1. tommortonharrogate · October 25, 2013

    Be assured that SOME owners of SMEs are defo NOT morning people……!
    Great post……zzzzzz
    Tom

  2. Simon Hudson · October 25, 2013

    I’m with Tom, I really struggle with mornings.
    I only ever get up early if I have a train to catch, rarely make any sense before 9 am and a good cup of tea and don’t start being creatively productive until late morning.
    Come the evening, if my head is reasonably clear, I can fly though. My best thinking is between 6 and 10, I can focus on creative and process tasks better in the evening and can still be functioning into the early hours (unless I’m genuinely tired).

    As you say, find what works for you; don’t assume everyone else is at their peak at the same time of day and, please, don’t ask me to contribute at breakfast meetings.

    • edreidyork · October 25, 2013

      Interesting that the 2 people to comment pre 9am THIS MORNING are both better suited to afternoon thinking/working. Imagine the standard of response they’d have given if they’d just waited a while…

  3. Justin Hyam · October 25, 2013

    Cracking blog as always Ed.
    I find I get about 4 hours kip per night, and I try to get 1 1/2 hours siesta between 3pm & 4.30pm. Admittedly, I run a pub so those hours fit my schedule, and probably wouldn’t work in corporate life.
    I long for more sleep, but hey ho, being a chef & landlord, there’s definately no rest for the wicked. To nick a quote from Bond Baddie in Die another day….”there’s plenty of time to sleep when I’m dead!”
    Anyway, back to the grindstone.
    Have a good Weekend

    Justin

  4. Mark Asquith · October 26, 2013

    Sleep is important; I can’t get enough. I get by on 7 hours.
    Follow this link for a great insight into just how important sleep is:

  5. Charlotte Sansome · November 6, 2013

    There is evidence to show that due to circadian rhythms, we go through sleep cycles of around 90 minutes – if you wake up at the end of a cycle you feel refreshed and if you wake up in the middle of one you still feel tired… So technically I guess that means someone who has had 4.5 hours sleep would be more rested than someone who has had 8… Why not give it a try? Great blog as ever!

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