In June 2010, Adam Mansbach sent out a simple post meant more as catharsis than promotion: "Look out for my forthcoming children's book, Go the -- to Sleep."
It was 2 a.m., and by the next morning, Mansbach knew he'd struck a chord. Within a year the cult-classic, Go the F**k to Sleep, was born and has since sold more than two million copies worldwide (as well as an amazing audio rendition from Samuel L. Jackson).
So what does a NSFW children's book have to do with being an entrepreneur and leader? Everything.
The symptoms surround us -- stress, addiction, burnout, disease -- and what we need is, quite frankly, a profanity-laced wake up call about the one time of day we neglect most.
Bedtime, your business and your body.
Why, exactly, does bedtime matter so much for entrepreneurs?
Arianna Huffington's recent book, The Sleep Revolution, explains: "We sacrifice sleep in the name of productivity, but, ironically, our loss of sleep, despite the extra hours we put in at work, adds up to more than eleven days of lost productivity per year per worker, or about $2,280." In the U.S. alone, that's a total annual cost of $63 billion.
On the physiological front, sleep does more than just recharge your body. It removes toxins, rejuvenates memory, spurs creativity, improves both academic and athletic performance, lowers stress, alleviates depression and even extends your life.
In addition, study after study (after study) has confirmed that sleep dramatically improves emotional intelligence and actually makes you a better leader. Of course, chances are you already know most of that. Unfortunately, our common solution to the problem only deepens the issue.
I'll just catch up on the weekend.
A lot of us treat sleep like a diet. We restrict ourselves during the weekdays and indulge during our "off" times. What seems like a wise move is, in reality, "a counterproductive way to catch up on your sleep" primarily due to a concept called "sleep debt".
Sleep debt is the difference between the amount of sleep you need and the amount of sleep you get. For example, if you sleep for four hours, three nights in a row, your sleep debt is at least nine hours. (The National Sleep Foundation recommends between seven to eight hours of sleep for adults.)
Even if you can catch up on these nine hours over the weekend -- which adding an hour here and an hour there won't actually accomplish -- you're still sending mixed messages to your body, which thrives on routine and consistency. The higher your sleep debt, the more you are prone to suffer from lack of focus, hastened aging, poor metabolism, compromised immune systems, unbalanced moods and impaired problem solving skills. So what can you do?
Make it a matter of business.
Naturally, it's hard to make a change when you aren't aware of what you are doing wrong. Self-realization is the keystone of success. But knowledge alone isn't strong enough to combat what the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officially categorizes a "public health problem."
The only way to right our sleeping wrongs is to start taking sleep seriously as a matter of business. As odd as it might sound, this means incentivizing sleep and getting accountable about it at a place where people talk about it least -- work.
First, you can start by spreading the good news of sleep within your organization. That might be as simple as sharing this article, any of the links above, or this brief video from an associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School on seven ways “to get a good night’s sleep.” Steps like ensuring reasonable work schedules, flexibility and fewer outside-of-work emails all "promote restfulness among employees."
Third, make "checking in your sleep" a regular part of team meetings. Encourage your people to keep a log through apps like Sleep Genius and share not only how rested they feel -- both quantiative and qualitative -- but also how they can support each other.
Fourth, to really take sleep seriously, actively reward achievers. Consider health insurance provider Aetna's recent unveiling of a voluntary program that offers employees up to $300 a year if they get at least seven hours of sleep per night. While the program has garnered it's share of both positive and negative attention, as Slate commented, "Aetna seems like one of the few companies that’s legitimately interested in employees’ well-being."
At the very least, getting open about your trials and triumphs paves the way for a radiant, rested and resourceful you, not to mention a radiant, rested and resourceful workforce.
Tuck your company in at night.
Adam Mansbach was right but his imperative needs to be more than just the occasional cry of desperate parents. It should be you and your organization's number one goal. Why? Because the productivity hack you need most has nothing to do with what you do at work and everything to do with what you did the night before.