Not enough time in the day? Sleep less, maybe?

Not enough time in the day? Sleep less, maybe?

Posted on September 21, 2011

We all complain that we do not have enough time in the day. We look at our busy lives and think if we only had one extra hour per day then we would accomplish a lot. We also look at folks around us who seem to be getting a lot done and marvel at how in the world can this people do all these things. We brush it away saying that these folks are inhuman or have some special gift.

If I were to ask a productivity expert or motivational coach to help me find an additional hour per day then the answer would be, “Sleep one hour less per day”. I am sure you would have heard this advice when you were in college. In your current stage of “life after college”, will this advice still be valid? Here is a list of folks who have got on by less hours of sleep.

  1. Jay Leno sleeps four hours per night
  2. Madonna sleeps four hours per night
  3. Bill Clinton sleeps 5 to 6 hours.
  4. Nikola Tesla – 2 hours per night
  5. Leonardo Da Vinci – 15 mins every 4 hrs for a total of 1.5 hrs
  6. Margaret Thatcher – four hours
  7. Martha Stewart – four hours
  8. Thomas Edison – 3 – 4 hours
The above info has been referenced from the online link provided by John Medina in his book, “Brain Rules”. 

Sleep is a touchy subject and is very personal. I am not recommending that sleeping less will work for everyone. Maybe you are already sleeping less than your body’s requirements. Maybe you are an insomniac who needs help to sleep. So, I am not trying to pass any judgment but trying to explain a phenomenon of how some folks find more time in their day.

Some of us have a mental model of how many hours we need to sleep. These mental models are formed by stuff we read about requiring a minimum of 8 hours of sleep or less sleep means you get older sooner or less sleep means you die early. All these are mental models that need to be tested before believing in them.

Please check out my earlier blog post on polyphasic sleep .

What is your mental model with regard to sleep?

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  • Reply Greg Githens September 21, 2011 at 9:01 am

    I think you will find high performers have a better ability to focus and prioritize. It is not about how many hours you have, it is about how you use the hours. The answer to distracted workers is not more hours, it is more focus.
    Another thing that I’ve noticed/experienced is that when there is more time available, people tend to stretch things out and pace slower; people with few hours get more things done than people who have more hours available.

    • Reply Shakeel Akhtar September 21, 2011 at 4:27 pm


      You are right. High performers know how to focus and prioritize. Since there are multiple strategies to get more meaningful things accomplished, my focus today was to offer a “sleep less” strategy.


  • Reply Anonymous September 22, 2011 at 11:26 am

    Check this out! You might find it interesting. And there are many other articles on how the duration of sleep is based on genetic makeup of each individual. Only 5 percent of the population can fully function with less sleep! I think every person has to find that right ratio of sleep to active state to not only do more work but also do quality work. For some it might be four hours and some nine hours to have good quality of active time!

    • Reply Shakeel Akhtar September 22, 2011 at 4:21 pm

      Thanks for the comment. The article was good and the comments below it were interesting too.

  • Reply Andrew Lin June 29, 2012 at 10:31 pm

    Actually it’s just the opposite. When I sleep well I get more done in the few hours I do have.

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