10 Science-Backed Reasons Why You Should Sleep More

Why Should You Sleep More

Why am I so tired?With modern pop songs with lyrics like “I will sleep when I die” and celebrities like DJ Khaled bragging about the bags under his eyes, it is clear that many people believe that sleeping as little as possible is the most effective solution and something that be proud of.

I’ve seen everyone from high school students to CEO’s show off that they only slept 4 or less the night before. But it turns out that this isn’t the optimal or most efficient way to succeed.

Dustin Moskovitz, the youngest billionaire in the history of mankind, wrote an article where he said that Facebook would have been more successful sooner and he would have been a more effective worker if he had taken some time from work to sleep more, eat healthier, and exercise.

He also makes the great point that the 40 hour work week is not just some random number pulled out of the air so employees don’t have to work 90 hour weeks. It is the result of Henry Ford’s carefully considered profit maximizer research that showed that it’s better to not overwork your employees.

Bill Clinton has pointed to lack of sleep as the cause of the acceleration of his clogged artery and most of his mistakes as President of the United States:

“In my long political career, most of the mistakes I made, I made when I was too tired, because I tried too hard and worked too hard. You make better decisions when you’re not too tired. So that would be my only advice.” -Bill Clinton

Arianna Huffington was so driven by this topic that she wrote a whole book on it called The Sleep Revolution (affiliate link) and went everywhere she could to promote it. She herself is an entrepreneur who learned the lesson the hard way by collapsing from exhausting after weeks of overexertion. 

Sleeping more will save you years of wasted time, energy, and effort in the long run. Here are the best tips I learned from my research on sleep:

1. Sleeping More Increases Athletic Performance

Athletes, listen up! Would you like a simple way of shaving a second off your sprint time or increasing your performance by 10%?

In 2011, Cheri Mah of Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic and Research Lab had 11 members of the Stanford basketball team participate in a study. She found that they averaged a little more than 6.5 hours of sleep each night. For the next 5 to 7 weeks, the athletes were asked to aim for a minimum of 10 hours a night. The players’ sleep average went up to 8.5 hours and their sprint time was .7 seconds faster, their free-throw shots went up by 9%, and their 3-point shots increased by 9.2%.

A similar study was conducted by Mah on Stanford football players. Their 20-yard shuttle sprint went from 4.71 to 4.61 seconds and average 40-yard dash time went from 4.99 to 4.89 seconds. Their day-time grogginess went down and vigor went up.

Golden State Warrior’s Andre Iguodala used to stay up late watching TV then wake up early to hit the gym. One day, he got a sleep therapist and adjusted to a consistent 8 hours per night. His points per minute went up 29%, his free-throw percentage increase by 8.9%, his 3-point shot % more than doubled, his turnovers decreased 37$ per game, and his fouls dropped by 45%. He was named the 2015 Finals MVP.

While there are successful people in business or athletics that live off  very little sleep, there are some who sleep more than the average person. Apparently, Lebron James, one of the best basketball players of all time, sleeps 12 hours a day. Roger Federer, one of the best tennis players of all time, says that if he doesn’t sleep 11 to 12 hours a day, it is not right.

Look at this infographic below to see more of Mah’s findings and other top athletes like Usain Bolt who sleep a lot:

Sleep to be an All-Star
Infographic by FFunction. From Visually.

A 2008 study by American Academy of Sleep Medicine studied how extending Stanford swimmers’ sleep to 10 hours per day affected performance. Their alertness, mood, 15-meter sprint times, reaction times, turn times, and kick strokes improved.

A 2014 study found that proper amounts of sleep resulted in increased levels of connectivity for motor function.

2. You Need At Least 7 Hours A Night

How Much Sleep Should You Get?

In 2015, experts from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society examined thousands of peer-reviewed articles determined the optimal amount of sleep for each age group:

Newborns (0-3 months ): 14-17 hours each day

Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours

Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours

Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours

School-age children (6-13): 9-11 hours

Teenagers (14-17): 8-10 hours

Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours

Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours

Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours

Note how the minimum sleep recommended is 7 hours. There is no category for super-busy macho men that says 1 to 5 hours.

This data comes from the National Sleep Foundation.

3. Sleep Deprivation Reduces Muscle Growth & Testosterone Levels

Healthy testosterone levels are critical to the success of any young male. Testosterone aids in muscle growth and normal male functioning. Without proper testosterone, a man can have low energy, motivation, and sex drive.

A 2011 study found that young men who slept less produced less testosterone.

Similarly, sleep spurs the release of human growth hormone (HGH), which is essential for muscle growth and cellular regeneration.

4. Proper Sleep Leads to More Mental Resiliency

Proper amounts of sleep increase your resiliency to daily stress. On top of that, a study found that lack of sleep is correlated with decreased brain size.

5. Sleep Deprivation Increases Susceptibility to Illness and Weakens Your Immune System

A 2015 study found that shorter sleep durations lead to increased susceptibility to colds. When you calculate how much you get from something, you have to factor in ALL the downsides. Most people don’t.

If you exercise, it gives you extra energy, focus, happiness and extends your life but you have to factor in the extra time you’re going to have to spend. It turns out, it’s still worth it for exercise.

But what about sleeping less? Are you factoring in the exhaustion and susceptibility to illness you get on top of the extra hours you save? Most people don’t. 

6. Lack of Sleep Increases Weight Gain and Makes You Uglier

A Mayo Clinic study found that sleep restricted subjects gain more weight than controls, consuming an average of 559 extra calories a day. People who get 6 hours of sleep a night are 23% more likely to be overweight. Get less than 4 hours and it increases to 73%.

A Swedish study had participants look at photos of sleep-deprived versus normal people. The former were judged as less healthy, more tired, and less attractive. A UK study was done on 30 women comparing people who slept for 8 hours a night versus 6 hours a night for 5 days.
Fine lines and wrinkles increased by 45%, blemishes went up by 13%, and redness increased by 8%.
Sleep deprivation can make your more hungry. Lack of sleep increases ghrelin, the hunger hormone.
Now, you may argue that just because you’re hungry doesn’t mean you eat more. This study begs to differ. They found that healthy men who lacked sleep also ate more.

7. Sleep Deprivation Leads To Increased Negative Thinking and Decreased Mental Health

Sleep deprivation has a strong connection with every mental health disorder, especially depression and anxiety.
“When you find depression or anxiety, 80 to 90% of the time, you’ll find a sleep problem.” -University of Delaware psychologist Brad Wolgast
A 2015 scientific study of 100 undergraduates by Nota and Coles found a correlation between shorter sleep duration and more OCD symptoms and repetitive negative thinking.
In a Great Britain Sleep Survey, researchers found that sleep-deprived people were 7 times more likely to experience feelings of helplessness and five times more likely to feel lonely. 

8. Sleep Improves Cognitive Performance, Memory, and Creativity

According to Till Roenneberg, a professor at Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, your cognitive performance is reduced greatly with lack of sleep.

Memory capacity and social competence is reduced. Performance suffers and decision making is changed.

If you get 6 hours of sleep per night for 2 weeks, the performance drop-off is the same as not getting 24 hours of sleep. Getting just 4 hours a night is the same as not getting 48 hours of sleep.

Studies also show that a healthy amount of sleep enhances creative problem solving ability and memory.

9. Sleep Deprivation Can Be As Dangerous As Driving Drunk

An Australian study found that after being awake for 17 to 19 hours, you behave like your blood alcohol alcohol level is  at 0.05 percent, which is just under the limit.

If you’re awake for just a few more hours, that’s 0.1 percent, legally drunk.

Do NOT drive if you are severely sleep deprived. I was told to always take a nap on the side of the road if this happened and it’s saved my life.

A report from the Center of Disease Control and Prevention found that 4.5% of drivers aged 18 to 24 had fallen asleep behind the wheel in the last month. For those 25 to 35, it was 7.2%. A National Sleep Foundation poll found 60% of adults admitted to driving while drowsy in the last year. Drowsy drivers are involved in 328,000 accidents each year.

A Norwegian study determined that people who had trouble falling asleep were involved in 34% of fatal car accidents. Those with symptoms of insomnia are nearly 3 times more likely to die from a fatal injury.

Again, that’s as specific as she gets with the study. No citation. No detail on who conducted the study. Just a “Norwegian study”.  And note that these are the best facts I found in the book. It’s one of the things I don’t like about the book.

10. Lack of Sleep Costs A Business More Money in the Long Run

In her book, she says that lack of sleep costs more than 11 days  of lost productivity per year per worker or about $2,280. It’s not cited so I don’t know what her source is.

In the UK, a survey showed that one in 5 employees had recently missed work or come in late because of sleep deprivation. Researchers estimated that this is equal to a loss of more than 47 million hours of work per year. Again, she doesn’t specify which study though.

Top Entrepreneurs Are Championing More Sleep

Many wealthy and successful entrepreneurs are stepping forward to tell you that you should sleep more to succeed. In addition to Arianna Huffington, millionaire entrepreneurs, like Dustin Moskovitz (billionaire founder of Facebook and Asana), Neil Patel (founder of multi-million dollar tech businesses), and Tucker Max (founder of Book in a Box and sold millions of books), have written about learning that sleeping more is important the hard way.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella gets 8 hours of sleep a night. Campbell Soup CEO Denise Morrison says it’s essential for her to get 8 hours as well.

It’s more convincing to me that they’re telling us this after trying to live off little sleep. They have tested out cutting out sleep themselves and realized it doesn’t make them as much money or increase their performance as much as sleeping more and sacrificing those hours they could have spent working.

Bonus Sleeping Tips FAQ

In this section, I share some bonus tips on how to get more healthy sleep.

Are Sleep Hacks and Gadgets Legit?

Mostly no. There are some useful hacks but a lot of crap out there.

I was listening to a podcast called Helping Joe where they help an average guy out with his life. This guy, Joe, bought four different sleeping hack products even though he was on a budget. A red light reader, orange blue-light blocking glasses, a sleep mask, and silicon earplugs. Talk about overboard, right?

It just speaks to the big issue that most average people struggle with in life. They spend a fortune on the tools and equipment thinking it will solve the issue without focusing on the skill. I’m sure you’ve seen it yourself when it comes to sports. There’s always some guy at CrossFit who has bought all the shoes, gloves, chalk, shorts, headbands, and everything else — but still sucks because he won’t actually practice lifting consistently, what matters most.

There are obvious solutions to these problems without going overboard. How about only reading when there’s daylight? How about getting rid of lights in the room you sleep in? How about not looking at screens before you sleep?

Reduce Blue Light Emission Intake

A 2014 scientific study by Chang (and others like it) discovered that evening use of light-emiting screens leads to prolonged time to fall asleep, reduced morning alertness, delayed circadian timing, reduced and delayed amount of REM sleep (the stage of sleep you want the most of), and other bad effects on health and performance.

I suggest installing f.lux on your computer. It’s free and it eliminates blue light emissions on the screen when the sun sets. My iPhone has a similar built-in functionality. Done.

A new trend is to wear orange sunglasses when the sunsets to block any blue light emission from lightbulbs or screens. A 2009 study on the effectiveness of amber lenses found that it lead to increased mood and sleep quality.

I think this crosses the line of “focusing too much on the tools” and diminishing returns. Buying orange glasses to block out the tiny bit of light bulb emissions will probably have marginal effects on your sleep. I’d consider it something like 2% of the effectiveness of what you can do by just making sure you get a full night of uninterrupted sleep for at least 9 hours a night with no lights in your room.

If you’re still interested in researching or buying Sleep Glasses, you can learn more on Amazon by clicking here. I will get a commission at no cost to you if you purchase anything through my link.

What’s The Optimal Clothing To Wear To Sleep?

Wear what’s most comfortable.

Or sleep naked with your partner. The skin to skin contact releases the feel-good hormone oxytocin, according to Fran Walfish, psychotherapist and author of The Self-Aware Parent.

Mrs. Huffington walks us through the history of sleepwear based on the knowledge  of Clare Sauro, a fashion historian. Night-time garments and pajamas are actually a very recent development in the last century. We mainly wore our day clothes to sleep before then. The conclusion was to wear what is most comfortable to you.


How To Quiet Your Mind Before Sleep

Mindfulness or sleep meditation works as a great way of quieting your mind. Another method is reading a paper book. Any eReader or Tablet device should be avoided because of the blue light mentioned earlier.

Finally, a mindset shift to come to the present and file away worries can help. Realize that all your worries cannot be fixed or improved at your current situation. Mentally store them away in a drawer and write them down on a piece of paper for the next morning so you don’t forget. After you do so, move on because worrying and stressing more will do you no good in improving the situation. Your priority is to get some good sleep.

Another mindset shift comes from Steve Job’s commencement speech. His main point was that all our worries and anxieties become clearly irrelevant or small when we are reminded that we will all die one day.

Don’t worry about the past because it can no longer be changed. The future has yet to come and depends on how you change the present. Be present in the moment. Most people aren’t.

Make Sure You Aren’t Woken Up At Night

If you can help it, make sure you are interrupted in the middle of sleep at night. A study discovered that people who were woken up had significantly worse moods the next day compared to those who didn’t get woken up who had the same amount of sleep.

Have the Optimal Temperature Range

According to a study from the Clinique du Sommeil in Lille, France, the ideal sleep temperature is 60 to 66 degrees Fahrenheit or 15.555 to 18.555 Celsius. The National Sleep Foundation says that sleep is actually disrupted when temperatures rise above 75 degrees (23.88 Celsius) or below 54 degrees (12.222 Celsius).

Use Reverse Psychology To Combat Insomnia

A study by the University of Glasgow separated participants with insomnia into two groups. The first was told to try what they normally do to get to sleep.  The other was instructed to deliberately stay awake for as long as possible without using electronics to do so. The group told to stay away has a significant reduction in sleep effort and sleep performance anxiety.

You can use this paradoxical intention technique to go to sleep. People who try to remain awake feel even sleepier.

Beware of Sleeping Pills. They May Increase Death rate

There’s more data in the book but one interesting study was by the Scripps Research Institute which compared data from a sample group of over 10,000 people taking sleeping pills that included zolpidem and temazepam, with a control group of more than 23,000 not taking pills. They found that those prescribed with as few as 18 doses of pills a year had a three times higher risk of death during the study’s 2,5 year follow-up period than their control group counterparts. Those taking the highest dose of pills (which was 132 per year) had a 35 percent increased risk of cancer including lung, lymphoma, prostate, and colon cancer. This association was strong even after controlling for conditions like obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.

In 2015, Consumer Reports found that Ambien and Lunesta put people to sleep only 20 minutes faster than a placebo.

There’s a reason why it’s tough to convince people not to use pills. The sleep-aid market is more than $500 million dollars and growing.

Myth Busted: Does Exercising Close To Bed Time Affect Sleep?

No. A 2013 study found there to be no effect. Exercise on!

What About Uberman Sleep and Polyphasic Sleep?

For those who are uninformed, there are all sorts of weird sleep methods that have popped up recently. My first encounter would be in the book The Game by Neil Strauss, where Neil tried taking a nap every couple of hours to attempt to dramatically reduce the total amount of time he had to sleep. It failed.

After a couple weeks, he couldn’t resist sleeping for over an entire day to make up for everything. Other tests have disproved this. Plus, it’s just not practical for modern lifestyle. See this BuzzFeed video below for an example and opinions from scientists on this idea. I know, I know. It’s BuzzFeed. But this was actually quite an informative video this time:

From my research, I suggest the optimal sleep method for the modern man is biphasic. It’s natural. It means to simply sleep as long as you can at night without being interrupted and take a quick nap in the day (for twenty minutes to two hours). This is something that many cultures have done for centuries and something many still do.

The Sleep Revolution Book Review

Ariana Huffington, a wealthy entrepreneur and founder of the Huffington Post, has taken it upon herself to become the champion of sleeping more. She has been campaigning this message as hard as she can online, similar to how Sheryl Sandberg champions feminism.

It was an interesting book, that’s one of the first of its kind in terms of solely targeting the value of sleep in an entire book and attempting backing that up with scientific data.

In this modern world where lack of sleep and overwork is encouraged, there’s definitely something wrong here that this book serves to fix.

Having said that, the book cites hundreds of studies of varying levels of credibility. This includes everything from a Today show survey to Ivy League studies. 99% of the studies have nothing to do with actually why getting enough sleep is useful, rather it seemed like she added any study that had anything related to sleep in a haphazard fashion. This article I wrote already compiles more useful studies than her book, which disappointed me as a reader.

Many of these studies are note cited in any detail and remain as broad as “a Today show survey” or “a Norwegian study.” This is a huge mistake in validity. That’s as far as she went to cite sources. There’s no appendix in the back that specifically sources each study.

Some of the studies can be traced because the authors are mentioned in detail. I still came away from the book with some big lessons.

I learned many techniques on how to improve my sleep quality and get to sleep faster. I learned that I need at least 7 hours a night, no matter what, for peak performance. I learned a lot of the dangers to lack of sleep, which span from happiness to mental health to focus to productivity to physical health to attractiveness.

The book seemed overly focused on ways to get to sleep faster. It would have been nice if more of it was on why you need more sleep. Also, most of the tools and tech gadgets recommended in a chapter seemed overly expensive. The arguments for why they should be used seemed rather unconvincing. There was little argument for them at times.

Here’s my video review of the book:

Is there any advice or subtopics on sleep that you wished I mentioned? Leave a comment below. I found a lot more interesting studies that I chose not to include in this article. It just goes to show you the importance of sleep.

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By Will Chou

I am the the founder of this site and I am grateful you are here to be part of this awesome community. I help hard-working Asian American Millennials get rich doing work they love.

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