9 tips on how to run a business on only 4 hours of sleep

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When Business Owners Sleep On The Street


When you're running a hyper-growth startup, it's likely you're short on sleep, working late hours.

But you're not alone: Even some of the world's most successful leaders seem to function on just 4 to 5 hours of sleep.

So how do they it?

A bunch of people in the startup community dropped their two cents on Quora.

1. Reduce TV

"First, reduce tv. You sleep much better, and do much more work, when you don't watch much tv. Your brain is actually less active watching tv than when it's sleeping." — Alexandra Damsker

"It's about the environment. Shut off the TV, turn off the lights, draw the shades. The room you sleep in should be as dark as possible." — Michael Lorenzen

2. Take power naps

"My coping mechanisms have included...short (<30 min) naps after lunch when I can fit them in." — Patrick Bosworth

"I happen to know one of these entrepreneurs and though it is true he goes to sleep late at night and wakes up between 4 and 6 am every morning, later in the afternoon he will always take a nap. The problem is if you miss that nap (even if it only is 20 minutes) it will put you off for the rest of the day, and you won't be able to perform at your best." — Ricardo Costa Reis

3. Eat less carbs

"I'd also recommend trying low carbs (<30g/day) for a week or two, it has other health benefits like losing a few pounds and not getting sleepy during the day and curing chronic heartburn etc. Try it, what do you really have to lose?" — Barry Shein

"Low-Carb During The Week: I'm not against carbohydrates. On weekends I take them down like its my last meal. However, I find when I cut out carbs like rice, wheat and potatoes, during the week, I feel much more energized throughout the day. I hardly ever feel tired in the afternoon. I feel much better on 5 hours of sleep with no carbs than 7 with them. Nothing makes me more tired than pasta or rice with my lunch." — Ryan Burgio

4. Willpower beats everything

"Passion makes you forget that you're working, therefore you'll see most people be up for 20 hours working and that's because they're in the zone. They love and enjoy it so much that they can't get away from it." — Beaudit B. Bakenga

"You're passionate about the things you value, and you value what you're passionate about. If you can find that, I think you can understand how and why CEO's, or anyone for that matter, do what they do. I think people who truly find value in what they do take it to the next level." — Grace J. Kim

5. Meditate

"A 4 hour sleep combined with 30 minutes of meditation can make me feel supercharged. I find regardless of the amount of time you've slept, if you can combine it with meditation, your performance increases." — Ryan Burgio

"Half an hour quality meditation equals 2 hours of sleep. The body is such an amazingly designed piece of equipment, it can adjust to virtually anything within reason once the passion or need is there." — Henry Virgin

6. Strategic use of caffeine

"After a long sleepless night, caffeine becomes your best friend. Although it may not be the healthiest thing to consume, it does the job, and it does it well. It also serves a stress reliever to me." — Zachery Myers

"Limit coffee intake: Do your ritual morning coffee if you must but then switch to green tea or mint tea for the rest of the day." — Chris Hall

7. It's just genetic

"That said, the reason some people can function on less sleep is basically genetic. Some 15% of people only need 6 hours of sleep a night to function due to genetics, but the vast majority of us need 8 hours plus." — William Ryan

"A very small percentage of the population is genetically programmed to need less sleep than average. These people are known as 'short sleepers' or 'hypo sleepers.'" — David Rose

8. Quality of sleep matters more than the hours of sleep

"When I get high quality sleep I can live on 5-6 hours of sleep pretty much indefinitely. Lower quality sleep requires more hours. So my advice to high stress individuals is to get the highest quality sleep you can at all times and the rest will work itself out." — Chris Hall

"Studies discuss the length you spend in bed, but the real critical aspect is getting high quality sleep. I can get into a good sleep in a couple of minutes, and I don't ever any trouble staying asleep. I think people waste a great deal of their lives with poor quality sleep, some can stay in bed 9 or 10 hours and still not get a proper sleep." — Dave Haynie

9. It just doesn't work — it's a myth

"Outliers always exist and it's possible some of these people do function better with less sleep...But in general, the research shows that for most people 7-8 hours is pretty much mandatory for optimal brain function." — Holger Maivali

"If you're only sleeping for 3-4 hours each day and not getting tired then there is something medically wrong with you. There may be no treatment for this but it's going to cause harm in the long run....The brain needs its rest, if it doesn't get it then it suffers. I would expect long term damage as a result if this is left untreated." — Neil McAliece


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