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Is Sleep the Silver Bullet?

In the high performance business culture, rest and sleep is often equated with laziness. So many ‘motivational’ business people are all over the internet saying you should only be sleeping 4-5 hours a night. I too am guilty of supporting this advice. But, this may be bad advice. Many people favour production over sleep. Chances are, if you’re reading this blog, you’re one of those people. You’re likely the kind of person that fears losing time to sleep that could be used in producing something of value. But there’s a cost to that kind of behaviour.

I’ve been running on 5 hours a night, on average, for some time now. And I’m beginning to wonder whether this has been a wise choice. It’s true, the effect of running on little sleep is that you get to use that time for other things. You get to use it for exercise, to work more, or even spend more time with your family. But what most of us don’t realize is that we’re sacrificing more than just unproductive hours when we sacrifice sleep in favour of doing other things.

I’ve started to read a stack on rest and sleep and their effects on the brain. Turns out that rest, and something as simple as daydreaming, is CRITICAL for your brain. Tim Kreider wrote in The New York Times: “The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration—it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.” An article Scientific American argues that mental rest actually “replenishes the brain’s stores of attention and motivation, encourages productivity and creativity, and is essential to both achieve our highest levels of performance and simply form stable memories in everyday life.”

So rest, paradoxically, makes you more productive and creative.

But what about sleep?

Well, unsurprisingly, sleep performs the same kind of functions, but at a deeper level. I recently watched a great TED talk where Jeff Iliff (a neuroscientist at Oregon Health & Science University) explained that inside the skull, the brain sits in a clear fluid that acts as a cushion for the brain. But that’s not all. When you sleep, that very same fluid moves between the brain cells and acts as the brain’s waste collection and removal system. You see, during the day, your brain builds up dangerous proteins and waste through all of the activity it performs. And this fluid removes that waste. Iliff’s research literally shows (through some cool videos) sleep’s rejuvenating effects on the brain. Sleep, therefore, isn’t just unproductive time. In fact, quite the opposite. The function of sleep is actually a beneficial process that makes you smarter.

“Great Mark, but how does this relate to negotiation?”

I’m glad you asked.

Negotiation is a mental game. And if you’re not as sharp between the ears as you should be, you’re likely to leave money on the table, not to mention the risks involved in making a mistake in complex negotiations around risk, limitations of liability and creating service level commitments. So if you’re looking for an edge at the negotiating table, try get some more sleep, maybe even start day dreaming a little more about creative solutions to problems.

With all this evidence that suggests that we should be getting more sleep and rest, you may be wondering whether I will be changing my sleep habits and trying to build in more downtime.

Yes and no. Building in more downtime may be tough as I’m trying to grown my business, but I can definitely build in more sleep. I’m going to up my sleep from 5 hours a night to to 6 hours a night.

Hey,….baby steps.