Why I Think “Sleep Less To Be Successful” Is A Load Of Crap

The first time I heard this “successful people don’t sleep beyond 4 hours” I was in my first year at the University. It was one of those random people who go around selling “motivational” books in school.

We had just finished a lecture and were waiting for the next lecturer. In walks this dude, carrying loads of books and sweating profusely. He cleared his throat and introduced himself boisterously while waving Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon Lechter’s “Rich Dad Poor Dad” book.

Initially, quite a couple of students appeared uninterested, until he said the keyword “success“. Mind you, we were all first-year students and any tip to succeed in the tedious Faculty of Law was welcomed.

The young man went on and on about the habits of successful businessmen and why we needed to apply these habits to our everyday life. Then he said something which, till today makes me chuckle, “you don’t need to sleep for up to 5 hours“. Matter of fact, he said if you’re serious about succeeding, then sleep should be the last thing on your mind.

Using Albert Einstein and Bill Gates as examples, he demonstrated to us the futility of sleep. In his words, “while you’re sleeping, the rich are working“. Now, this is probably the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever heard, but we bought it then – hook, line, and sinker.

To be fair, we didn’t know any better, and quite frankly, it didn’t occur to anyone to do any research. That was how Endi and her friends started pulling all-nighters in school.

Armed with coffee, kolanut, bubble gum and rechargeable lamps, we were battle ready for sleep. After lectures, we would go to our various hostels, change and converge in school to read till daybreak. In fact, it was so bad that if you’re caught sleeping during “night class“, you are termed unserious and would most likely not succeed in life.

Little did we know that the poor bloke just used our naivety to sell some of his books.

The reason I remembered this story was because someone said something along those lines to me a few weeks ago. We were talking about Jeff Bezos and his net worth, and from there, the story turned to other successful men in the world.

I really can’t remember how sleep came into the discussion, but he said that we were wasting man-hours by sleeping so much. According to him, man doesn’t need 6-7 hours of sleep in order to be efficient. It was wastage, and these hours could be put to better use.

After he said this, I was silent for a beat, then I started laughing. I laughed so hard, you know that kind of laughter where tears are pouring from your eyes. Where did we get this ridiculous notion from? Who told you that sleeping for more than 5 hours is a waste of time?

Why I Think "Sleep Less To Be Successful" Is A Load Of Crap

Successful People And Sleep 

I initially wanted to talk about the benefits of sleep, but decided against it. It is basic knowledge that the body needs adequate sleep in order to function properly. The definition of “adequate” may be relative, but a lot of doctors and medical journals have advised that the body needs, at least, 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Before we started our Bar Finals i.e. Law School exams, we were all agitated. Bar Finals was (and still is) a terror to law students which is to be expected because if you fail, you will not be called “Barrister“.

Oh, for the love of the name Barrister. Some of us were already being called Barristers before even getting to Law School. Such was the appeal the esteemed profession held. The only thorn in your journey to becoming a Barrister, Bar Finals.

So we had to read and read. We spent hours reading and cramming laws and regulations. Bloodshot eyes were a common occurrence. However, the lecturers kept insisting that students should prioritize sleeping.

A lot of people didn’t listen, but I did. My friends couldn’t understand why I was sleeping while people were burning midnight candle. And I must confess that the sleep helped greatly.

During the Bar Finals, there was a lot of drama; students fainting, some hallucinating. I’m not saying it was as a result of inadequate sleep, but I’m sure it played a part.

A particular student, after nights of not sleeping, fell asleep on the day of the first paper. By the time she woke up, we were already 45 minutes into the exam.

Having said all this, let’s talk about some of the famous and successful people we know.

I read this article on Forbes on the sleep habits of famous people. Well, it’s basically an infographic and it showed the sleep patterns of the bigwigs. Very insightful. You can also find a similar one at Muse.com

So, what does this all tell you?

1. Sleep is very important for both the successful and the not-so-successful.

2. There is no correlation between sleep and success in life. Although, it is important to note that sleep gives your body the much-needed strength to achieve your goals.

3. Don’t listen to anybody, especially anyone selling “get rich quick” books, who tells you that sleep is a waste.

4. Don’t do all night reading especially if you’re studying for an exam. You need sleep (and you need to read as well, so balance is key).

5. Always listen to your body.


What do you think? Do you believe that sleeping less is ideal for success?

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All my love,

Endi