Never, ever sacrifice sleep.
You’ve read it in the title, but I can’t stress it enough.
Whatever you define success as, sacrificing sleep won’t help you get there. If anything, it will decrease the chances of you becoming successful.
I’m sick and tired of all these people on the internet trying to motivate others to sleep less. Most of them don’t know anything about health; some of them aren’t even successful.
And for the record, I’ve done it myself: waking up super early, experimenting with shorter sleep cycles, using caffeine to compensate — it just doesn’t work.
What I wish people would realize is, if you have big goals and dreams (or just a ridiculous schedule), there are ways to have more time and get more done, but sacrificing sleep isn’t one of them.
Think of time management, peak performance, task prioritization. And a few more (I’ll list and explain them later in this post).
And why don’t you hear about these in motivational videos? Because it takes real discipline to follow all these tips.
It’s hard to master time management. It’s hard to remove all unnecessary distractions. It’s hard to think outside the box and get more done in less time.
It’s easy to set the alarm clock two hours earlier and be proud and tell yourself you’ll definitely be successful just because you work longer hours.
Just like it’s hard to exercise every day, quit alcohol, and have the best possible diet, but it’s easy to buy a bunch of supplements.
If you’ve fallen into the trap of thinking that sacrificing sleep will somehow help you reach success (or anything in life), please, please think twice.
And keep reading — this post isn’t just a rant, I’m actually giving you super helpful tips so you can have more time and energy without sacrificing a single hour of sleep.
Are you an “elite sleeper”?
First of all, don’t compare your schedule to that of other people’s. It’s often unrealistic, and always a fundamental mistake.
We’re all different, and I’m not even referring to things like our lifestyle, background, resources, mentality, etc.
What I’m referring to is our body and the way our body functions.
Yes, you may have heard of someone who is able to work crazy hours, and still have high levels of energy and focus, despite getting five hours of sleep each night.
No, it doesn’t mean it will work for you. In fact, it probably won’t work for you.
So-called elite sleepers (people who can function on less sleep) do exist, and scientists currently believe their pattern doesn’t have significant risks in terms of premature aging or diseases.
But they only make up a tiny percentage of the population. Less than 3 percent. Chances are you don’t belong to this category.
And keep in mind, some folks claim they can sleep less and be productive, but in reality they’re simply sleep deprived (one in three Americans are).
There are a few interesting articles about elite sleepers and their rare gene mutation, so if you’d like to find out more, check out the one on the UCSF site as well as the NIH site.
But for now, just be aware that what might work for a small slice of the population won’t necessarily work for you, and that’s why you shouldn’t model someone else’s schedule if it interferes with your sleep.
Why you shouldn’t sacrifice sleep
In short: sleep is vital. Optimal sleep enables optimal performance.
Sleep less and worse, and you’ll notice a significant drop in cognitive abilities, memory, energy, and overall productivity and vitality.
The (negative) effects of sleep deprivation can actually be compared to being slightly drunk. This has been shown by several studies as well.
Think of a busy day after a sleepless night. Think of a time in which you had to stay awake and function on little to no sleep. It probably felt horrible.
Now imagine doing that every single day, or five days a week. Not very sensible.
What’s even worse is, sleep deprivation affects your mental health as well.
I remember hearing a conversation about this exact thing — this guy was talking about his past job and its insane hours, and his inability to get enough sleep, and how over time it turned him into a zombie with mental health issues.
That’s just one example — I’m sure we’ve all heard of similar stories.
Sleep is absolutely critical for your physical and mental health, and until scientists come up with a pill that makes us sleep more efficiently (if it’s even possible, and I seriously doubt it), please get your eight hours.
The only exception to the rule, at least the one I can think of, would be if someone is so obsessed with their sleep schedule that they are missing potential opportunities.
If you’re serious about success, then you might have to pull an all-nighter once in a while.
Occasionally, you might have to wake up super early, or go to bed super late.
Or, you might have to spend a week or a few weeks in which you sleep less hours because e.g. you’re working on a project and you have a strict deadline.
As long as you don’t make it a long-term thing, you’ll be fine. Kind of like cheat meals or lazy weekends.
How to have more time without sacrificing sleep
Why do people try to sleep less in the first place? What is the issue with sleep?
Really, it all boils down to having enough time. Or, to be more precise, better time management.
Because there are only 24 hours in a day, and your goal is to use those hours efficiently, as well as to be realistic (you might be able to work 100-hour workweeks, but not 200-hour workweeks).
So here are five tips to optimize your schedule and actually have more time and energy.
Please don’t overlook these — they are important.
1. Prioritize your goals/tasks
A task can be pretty much anything. Successful people have learned to prioritize their tasks and to only focus on those that truly contribute to growth (whether it’s personal growth, business, or anything else).
Talk to anyone who has “made it” and they’ll tell you they regret wasting too much time on things that didn’t really matter. Again, this applies to work and life in general.
If you’re able to truly focus on what’s important, you’ll probably have an extra one to two hours a day, or more, compared to the average person. It’s that simple.
2. Eliminate all distractions
This is another big one. You want to be aware of all the distractions you are surrounded by on a daily basis, then find ways to either reduce or eliminate them.
Think of phone notifications. Social media. Checking for new emails. Or even tasks that aren’t actually important, as explained above.
Minimalism is probably the best way to get rid of all these things that drain your energy and attention. But you don’t need to become a minimalist — just have a minimalist mindset when it comes to achieving your goals.
3. Find your chronotype
This refers to your natural inclination to sleep at a certain time. Some types tend to wake up earlier, and go to bed early; other types are what we call night owls.
So if you follow your chronotype, you’ll naturally improve your energy and focus, which translates to getting more done in less time.
Now, I get it: it’s not always possible to wake up whenever you want (e.g. if you work night shifts). But you can still pay attention to your energy levels throughout the day, and identify what the best time for you is, and use it to your advantage.
4. Work faster
Typically, this comes with experience. So it may not be the best advice if you’re just starting out (whatever it is that you’re doing).
Basically, after you’ve done something over and over again you should be able to do it faster. Part of it has to do with prioritization, but you’ll also be smoother and make less mistakes.
Also, if you optimize your energy levels you’ll naturally perform faster and get more done in less time. Even if you’re a little bit faster and save, say, one hour a day, in the long term that’s going to make a big difference.
5. Don’t multitask
If you constantly switch between tasks, it’s going to take you way longer to get things done. This is especially true for tasks that require focus.
So if possible, try to stick to tasks and resist the temptation to do something else.
It takes a few minutes to get in the zone, and once you’re in that state, you really don’t want to go and do something else, because then you’ll have to start again.
Fall asleep faster, wake up faster
Instead of sacrificing precious hours of sleep, you can train your body to fall asleep faster and also get deeper, more restful sleep.
There are no secrets, and you don’t need any expensive supplement. Just follow all the basic sleep hygiene tips:
- No screens or exposure to bright lights before bed
- No big meals three to four hours before bed
- Physical exercise every day, even if just walking
- Making your bedroom as dark and as quiet as possible
- Optimal levels of magnesium, potassium, etc.
- Setting the alarm at the same time every day
Things you can sacrifice for success
Why sacrifice sleep and health when you could be sacrificing other things? Here are six that come to mind.
If you can think of other things to sacrifice for success (perhaps things you’ve sacrificed yourself), please let me know in the comments.
- Your diet. Do you eat food that causes brain fog and fatigue? Or food that enables peak performance? And what about your levels of hydration? And micronutrients? It’s hard to be successful if your diet sucks. Most people overlook this, but it’s crucial.
- Your old friends. Friends from the past don’t necessarily align with goals for the future. Don’t be afraid to burn bridges with people who hinder your growth, even if they don’t do it on purpose. Sometimes your old circle prevents you from becoming successful and you don’t even realize it.
- Your identity. Similarly, you want to say goodbye to the person you used to be if that person is not capable of achieving your most important goals. This includes your views, attitude, etc. Stop living on autopilot and don’t be afraid to change.
- Money. I think most people’s idea of success has to do with making more money in some ways. Nothing wrong with that. But are you willing to invest and sacrifice money right now so you can have more in the future? There is no need to take risks, but you can’t always be too conservative.
- Time. What if you truly had no free time? And no distractions at all? What if you had the discipline to work on your dreams all day every day? Probably not the most sensible thing in the long run, but it’s definitely possible to do it for a few weeks or months.
- Short-term goals. Successful people have learned to chase big rewards rather than instant gratification. And this applies to their goals, too. If you have, say, ten goals, or ten things you’re working on, then you must prioritize them and go for those that matter the most, and those are probably the ones that will take longer to achieve.
Do. Not. Sacrifice. Sleep.
Instead, develop the discipline to use your time as efficiently as possible. And get rid of all those distractions, and all those things that don’t help you become successful.
You think you need more time, but you’re wrong. You need to prioritize your goals and perform at your best. That’s basically it.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, by the way, so feel free to leave a comment below. Thanks for reading!