Is Failure Really a Thing?

Many successful people are sleep deprived, but that doesn’t mean coffee and energy drinks are the keys to business success. In fact, these individuals are likely successful despite their lack of sleep — not because of it. Is shaving off a few hours of sleep really worth the extra time? Jeff Gish, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Management at UCF College of Business, explains how sleep plays a pivotal role in the development of new ideas and business ventures.


Featured Guests

  • Jeff Gish – Assistant Professor, Management

Episode Highlights

  • 0:46 – Paul Jarley’s introductory thoughts
  • 1:39 – The effects of sleep on entrepreneurship
  • 8:58 – How does sleep effect the evaluation of ideas?
  • 17:56 – Jeff Gish’s sleep deprivation experiment
  • 23:13 – Solving your sleep equation
  • 25:05 – Questions from the audience


Episode Transcription

Paul Jarley:                         Tom Ford, fashion designer, gets three; Donald Trump says he gets three to four; Martha Stewart, under four; Jack Dorsey, founder of Twitter, four to six; Barack Obama, six. Successful people tell us if you want to get ahead, you need to work more and sleep less. It’s the price of success, but is it?

Paul Jarley:                         This show is all about separating hype from fundamental change. I’m Paul Jarley, Dean of the College of Business here at UCF. I’ve got lots of questions. To get answers, I’m talking to people with interesting insights into the future of business. Have you ever wondered, is this really a thing? Onto our show.

Paul Jarley:                         Today’s podcast is from a Dean’s speaker series talk by Jeff Gish. Jeff is a professor in our management department and is an expert in entrepreneurship. He hasn’t just studied it. He’s actually lived it. As an entrepreneur, he spent a lot of sleepless hours trying to get his business off the ground. His insights are really meant to be an intervention for my chief of operations, Tiffany Hughes. You all know a Tiffany. She’s that person who never sleeps. She sends you calendar requests at three in the morning. She responds to your emails overnight. And she’s at work before you are. If you plead with her to stop, she answers you with something like, “I just have to get this done.” Mercifully, my Tiffany doesn’t really understand Twitter, but does it really need to be this way? Or is this workaholic culture that we’re all in just getting in our way? Listen in.

Jeff Gish:                             Let’s get into this talk about sleep and entrepreneurship. And I’ve titled it, money never sleeps, but entrepreneurs should. That’s very prescriptive. I hope that you agree by the end of this presentation, and I’d like to start off the talk with this quote from Ben Horowitz. Ben Horowitz is co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz. It’s a VC firm over in the West Coast, but he’s a former CEO too, a former founder. When he talks about his CEO experience or his founding experience, he says, “When I was a startup CEO, I slept like a baby. I woke up every two hours and cried.” I share this quote because it’s a little bit funny. It gets people engaged, but it’s also very true. I had a business with 57 employees before joining the academic realm, and I felt a lot of pressure when I was an entrepreneur. And this person felt the pressure too, it was hard to sleep.

Jeff Gish:                             And on top of that, you feel like your business is so important. There’s this tension in entrepreneurship that your business is so important that how can you sleep when you’ve got to keep things afloat and keep things moving. Ben Horowitz picks up on that in this quote, and I picked up on this with my coauthors that wrote this paper that was just recently published. Just the fact that entrepreneurs are of this culture that I’ll sleep when I die, or sleep is for weaklings. I was a person who touted those messages as a small business entrepreneur. I always knew that there might be some ill effects of that, but I just kept doing it because I felt my business is really important. I think a lot of entrepreneurs fall into that category. I feel like this context is a good place to study sleep restriction and how that affects pursuits that are unique to entrepreneurial ventures.

Jeff Gish:                             All right. In order to talk about this, I’ve got to get through the theory part. All right. This is the academic portion. I draw on structural alignment theory, and I use a cliche picture of an iceberg, but it really fits in this instance. Structural alignment is how researchers have posited that expert entrepreneurs, and they do this by talking to entrepreneurs, how expert entrepreneurs make decisions about evaluating opportunities. If you think about alignment, you can think about two things. One thing being the market and a new technology that might be sold, commercialized to that market. Structural alignment talks about how similar those are to each other.

Jeff Gish:                             There are levels of similarity. The first level is superficial. These are just the features, objects and people. This market sort of looks like this business, or the people who are founding this business, so that’s really superficial. That is not what makes the business go, all right. That’s not what’s important for the business, but superficial alignment that exists.

Jeff Gish:                             The next one is first order of structural alignment. That’s the how and why a business might work for a particular market. And then even deeper than that is the potential benefits and potential problems that might exist. And if you can get to those deeper levels, you can do a better job at assessing whether an opportunity will be successful or not. That’s the idea in structural alignment theory. So, remember this iceberg diagram because it will come back several times during the presentation. And if you can click once… The top, when I say superficial, I’m talking about the superficial alignment between a technology and market. And on the bottom we’re talking about structural alignment, both first order and higher order. Those are both structural considerations about a market and a technology that is intended to be commercialized on that market.

Jeff Gish:                             I’m going to give you an example because that’s really abstract, that theory. This example is asks you to look at, it’s a business example, and I’ll get to what the business is in a moment. What are some similarities between these pictures? Just think in your head. There aren’t a whole lot. It’s kind of a trick question. There is some orange in each picture. They’re both walking toward us. But, excuse me. If you look at this picture, these are individuals who… They’re NASA astronauts. They’re shuttle pilots. And over a long period of time, they’d been selected over and over again as the best of the best of the best. So these are really long-tail individuals who have shown excellence over time. This is a middle school or high school, kids walking down the hall. You might have some brilliant individuals in there, but you probably have the whole spectrum of abilities and performance. As far as similarities go, there aren’t many between the two. And so, superficially, on the surface, not much is going on there. However, I want to tell you about an example of where business from this area came over to the field of K through 12 education. All right. This slide or this picture, if you can’t see it, it says, “Back to school special: Ritalin.” I am by no means- Woo hoo.

Speaker 3:                           [inaudible 00:06:24] in a 12-step program.

Jeff Gish:                             That’s great. I am by no means speaking derisively of Ritalin. It’s helped a lot of people through a lot of, a lot of things, especially ADHD. But there are parents who would like to see a nonmedical solution to their kids’ struggles with ADHD. I’m just setting that up as a context.

Jeff Gish:                             All right. Over here at NASA, these people do a very technical and demanding job. And when you’re flying a shuttle, I know the shuttle programs have been canceled, but we’re going to send people to space again. And when you’re flying some a spacecraft, it’s important that you pay attention. And so engineers who, I mean, there can be some catastrophic events that happen if you don’t pay attention. Engineers developed a simulation tool for NASA pilots that put an EEG helmet on their head and monitored their attention. And in the simulator, if their attention wandered, it would make the controls harder to operate the shuttle. All right, so there’s a real penalty when your attention wanders.

Jeff Gish:                             And so one of the engineers that developed this technology said, “Hey, are there other markets that this could apply to?” This person was thinking structurally, not superficially, and went over to these kids experiencing ADHD and parents who wanted to see a solution that was not medical. And so what he did was he partnered with the Sony PlayStation platform, and they still have to wear the helmet to… These are fairly expensive treatments, but they put the helmet on the kids and he developed a racing game where a kid’s attention wanders. They have to go back and the controls become harder and they have to keep their attention focused on the screen in order to keep the car going down the road and driving appropriately and have the controls that they want to win the race.

Jeff Gish:                             Now you can argue whether that’s a good idea to have kids who have ADHD to play more video games. I mean, I don’t know. This was commercialized that received venture funding, and there was a strategic partnership made with Sony. All right, so this is an example where superficially kids and teens are not similar to NASA pilots, but structurally where it’s important for the business to be successful, attention deficit is roughly analogous with pilot vigilance. And, again, here’s the the iceberg. At the tip, it doesn’t match. And at the bottom, it does. So that `NASA engineer who developed this technology was looking at the structural alignment. And we’ll come back to this example in a little bit.

Jeff Gish:                             I want to look at whether sleep influences the ability to look at different parts of the iceberg for business opportunities, right? And so I do it in three different ways. There’s three different studies I want to talk about today. First, is an entrepreneur survey just to see is there something going on, totally correlational. Next, I talk to entrepreneurs in a daily entrepreneur study over a period of two weeks and measure their sleep and ask them to evaluate an opportunity each day. And then finally to to isolate sleep as a cause of this phenomenon that I’m investigating. I do a sleep deprivation experiment where people are randomly assigned to condition sleep deprivation and enough sleep at least seven hours.

Jeff Gish:                             The first one I’m going to talk about is a field observation. In this field observation, I surveyed 784 entrepreneurs, talk to them about their sleep quantity, how many hours they slept the previous night, and then ask them to rank three business opportunities. The way I did that as I served them executive summaries for three different business opportunities, all of these business opportunities were superficially aligned. So tip of the iceberg, everything matched. But there was one that did not have structural alignment. If you get down beneath the surface on the iceberg, this third place business did not have structural alignment. I asked them to rank the opportunities and my measure of success was whether they ranked the third one in third place or not. And what I found was that that people who were sleep deprived actually had a harder time recognizing that that third one should be in third place, and there was a statistically significant difference. But, again, this correlational was a lot of noise in this type of design. But it said, “Yes, Jeff. Go forward, and do some more. Spend some more money, and collect more data. There’s probably something going on here.”

Jeff Gish:                             The daily entrepreneurs study is interesting and it was a heavy lift for me to do and collect because I’ve been talking to entrepreneurs over a two-week period, checking in with them twice per day. These are entrepreneurs and six different continents. I’ve got to figure out time zones and deliver the surveys at the right time. I can automate some of that, but I also want to make sure that everything’s going well and check in with them and make sure I keep them engaged. But this helps me answer the question of, or at least the concern with the previous study, of that’s not me. There might be some of you in the audience saying right now, don’t people need different amounts of sleep? And to a certain extent, yes, that’s true. You know, somebody might need only an average of six hours of sleep, other people might need an average of eight hours of sleep. And this study helps me pit an entrepreneur against him or herself on subsequent days. It’s not comparing entrepreneurs to each other, it’s comparing an entrepreneur to him or herself.

Jeff Gish:                             All right. This is just a histogram. I won’t spend much time on this slide, but it’s a measure of how many hours of sleep you got over the period of the study. Each entrepreneur has 14 times to get onto this chart, and it shows that entrepreneurs perhaps surprisingly sleep about as much as the American public at 6.7 hours per night. There’s a wide range of variation. What I want to point out here is that between person variance, that is my difference from Tiffany and how much I sleep, is less different than how much I slept last night compared to the following night. I’m more different from myself on subsequent days than I am from how much sleep Tiffany needs, and she’s a short sleeper.

Jeff Gish:                             This chart just looks at… What I do with those ideas, as I eliminate all the between person variance. The way I do that is if you’re a person who over two weeks only needed five hours per night on average: when you slept six, you get a plus one; when you slept four, you get a minus one. If you slept five, you get a zero. The person who needs seven hours of sleep: if you sleep eight, you get a plus one; you sleep six, you get a minus one; if you sleep seven, you get a zero. So that takes between person differences out and just measures your deviance from your own sleep on average. Okay. And that’s what this chart is.

Jeff Gish:                             These are three different individuals. This first individual has pretty decent sleep hygiene, but you can see that there’s wide variation. They average a little over seven hours of sleep per night, but there’s wide variation. Sometimes they’re doing recovery sleep, sometimes they’re staying up late and working. These are all practicing entrepreneurs, remember, around the world. This person needs less sleep on average, but there are times where they’re sleeping only three hours and then maybe this is a recovery night for that person. Even though they need less sleep, they’ve still got variance within person. And then this person had a couple of nights where they slept three hours, and then this is probably like a weekend night where they’re recovering or something, that did not work for them. they’re getting sleep.

Jeff Gish:                             The reason I put these up is just to show you that that among the participants, this is not unique. This is how we all sleep more or less over time. All right. So what I did with those entrepreneurs in this, in this daily study is I took opportunities like that NASA opportunity. There were 14 of them over the two week period, so 14 different opportunities, and each day an entrepreneur could be served into one of these conditions. Let me tell you how these conditions work. The one that I pitched to you before with low-superficial and high-structural alignment, that’s the NASA example, but you can adapt this to show higher superficial alignment and high-structural alignment.

Jeff Gish:                             In that case, what I did was I changed it from a NASA engineer to Stanford child psychologists. So Stanford child psychologists make this technology to monitor attention, and it would make sense to apply it to K through 12 education, that’s superficial alignment. And so the structural alignment was still there. I modify that. And then so you can also modify it so that there’s low structural alignment. And so let’s just stick with the NASA example. In that situation, you might change it so that this tool that was developed is to monitor pilot’s stress as opposed to attention and that changes so that structurally those aren’t aligned. I modify those to make four different cells for 14 different opportunities and each day you just get served into one of these cells. You don’t look at each manipulation, but over the 14 days you get multiple chances in each cell through the random assignment that I did.

Jeff Gish:                             What I want to say about the iceberg, again, is bringing iceberg back up. And so on the tip of the iceberg, if you can judge an opportunity to merit on the tip of the iceberg, you don’t need to go deeper than superficial level. Here when it’s low superficial and low structural and up there where it’s high superficial, high structural, I don’t expect to see a difference from sleep because you don’t have to get deeper than superficial level of scanning to evaluate that opportunity. I expect the differences to exist on this diagonal where you have to go beneath the surface to evaluate whether it’s a valid opportunity or not, how high quality it is. Sure enough, what I find is that there’s no difference based on sleep on evaluating these opportunities, whether you slept less than you normally do or not. You evaluate those similarly because you don’t have to go deeper than superficial level is my proposition.

Jeff Gish:                             What we see here is that with the NASA example, for example, where it’s low superficial alignment, high structural alignment, the more sleep you had, the higher you rated that opportunity. And so if you didn’t have sleep compared to yourself, you made an error and rated that lower. Down here, if you have more sleep, this is a non-obvious poor quality opportunity where it’s superficially aligned but not structurally aligned, so you wouldn’t want to give that an up vote. And sure enough, people who had more sleep rated those opportunities lower. All right, so saw the results that I expected to see there.

Jeff Gish:                             I developed a relationship with a local business in Eugene, Oregon, where I was when I was doing this study. And this business does business planning software for small- to medium-sized businesses and they allow me to survey their customers. The CEO sent out an email on my behalf saying, “Hey, there’s some entrepreneurship research going on. Would you be willing to participate?” That was how I gathered the first 780 entrepreneurs sample and then in a different collection, different about a year later. Did the entrepreneur sample here.

Speaker 4:                           One other question. What about the level of sleep? Not the amount of time, but you know some people they don’t sleep deep.

Jeff Gish:                             Yeah, that’s right.

Speaker 4:                           Did you account for that in this?

Jeff Gish:                             Did I account for it? Usually when you are sleeping, that’s a good indication that you’re getting some of the recovery that you need. But we also measured sleep quality, so people’s subjective assessment of how well did you sleep last night? How restless was it? And those results hold with this too. So he used that as a predictor as opposed to sleep hours. Same type of result, same pattern of results. Does that make sense? If I get one more hour of sleep than I did the previous night, I could consider that a higher-quality level of sleep, but it is a little bit different estimation than quality just without any leveling up. So I would have loved to have done a sleep deprivation experiment with with entrepreneurs. But I asked, they said, “No.” I can do it with undergrads, though. This was all on the up and up. I got it approved by our IRB. I basically pitched it such that undergrads are going to pull an all-nighter anyway. And so I said they’re not asking him to do anything that they wouldn’t do on their own volition, and I didn’t ask them to do anything that I wouldn’t do myself. I stayed up with them, too. Along with the help of four RAs who made sure people weren’t falling asleep.

Jeff Gish:                             Two different conditions, one that slept at least seven hours, one that did not sleep at all, zero hours. You can imagine quality assessment of sleep the previous night is like none. And everyone reported to the lab at 9:00 AM and answered the same questions that that first sample did of entrepreneurs about ranking those three business opportunities. So they’re looking at executive summaries and ranking them. I also had them give an open-ended response about a novel technology and I said which type of markets would you apply this to? In that exercise I’m looking at are they focusing on superficial relationships, are they focusing on structural relationships? I’ll tell you how I do that in a moment. Go ahead.

Jeff Gish:                             This is the two different groups. On the left is the sleep-deprived group on the right is the well-rested group. And what I want to call out here is that an error in ranking is when you rank that low-quality opportunity in one of these buckets, higher is better here, so either in first place, second place. The sleep deprived group had a lot more people and in fact they were two 2.6 times more likely to make a false positive vote for that low-quality opportunity. All right. And very few people did that in the well-rested group that had at least seven hours. This is the open-ended assessment where I had them write about here’s a new technology and the technology was a video tracking software where it looks at video and sees how long somebody stands in a certain area in a space where they’re moving to where what they’re looking at. It measures their head and where their eyes are pointed, and it says whether they come back to that space. All right. I just sort of laid out that technology in a paragraph and said, “Which markets might you apply this to to these participants?” I had them write as much as they want. They could come up with as many ideas as they want and write as long as they wanted. I didn’t regulate their time.

Jeff Gish:                             And so what I’m looking at in there is are they focused on the deep level stuff, the structural alignments, or are they focused on superficial? I trained some RAs to code the open-ended responses, and they were blind to experimental condition. They’re randomly given to the person who’s doing the coding. They don’t know whether this is the person who slept or not. What we found was that when someone had not slept in the sleep-deprivation condition within group, they were less likely to talk about structural alignment. This is first order higher order thinking, so structural alignment than they were to talk about superficial alignment.

Jeff Gish:                             There’s also between group… This is the well-rested group over here. There’s a between group difference between the amount of structural thinking that is incorporated into the responses and over here with the sleep-deprived group, how much structural thinking they have. So within group and between group differences, and importantly we controlled for word count and number of ideas because you can think of that sleep-deprived group reporting to the lab. They’ve had at least 24 hours of sleep deprivation where they actually incentivize to go forth and write something. Word count was not significantly different. So they on average they use the same amount of exposition and the number of ideas was not significantly different. So importantly they’re still, the people who are sleep deprived are still doing writing. It’s just not as on point or it’s not as germane to the opportunity as what the people who are well rested we’re doing.

Jeff Gish:                             What does this all mean? Where does this take us? A couple of years ago I gave the presentation before I had actually done the diary study, I had just done the survey with the entrepreneurs. And I had a group of 250 angel investors and entrepreneurs at this angel investing conference. And I had a couple of people come up to me afterwards and go, “Well, that’s not me. That’s not how I am. I only need three hours of sleep per night.” This person actually is an angel investor who mentors entrepreneurs and he advises people to sleep less. He’s participating in that culture. He critiqued my sample size, and I’m like, “Well, how big is yours? It’s one. Right?” I didn’t actually say that. That’s just what I was thinking in the back of my mind.

Jeff Gish:                             He critiqued the sample size and he said, “That’s just not me. I only need three hours of sleep per night.” And I said, “Well, you have variance. And so, perhaps, you’re successful despite the fact that you only sleep three hours a night, but I can also say with this additional data collection that I did where I measured an entrepreneur against him or herself, that that person who only needs three hours of sleep per night, when they get four, they’re better at opportunity evaluation than when they get three.” That’s why I think that particular portion of the study is important. And then I highlight a causal mechanism with the sleep-deprivation experiment showing that this is what’s going on. It’s their ability to access those structural relationships between a technology and a market that it’s intended for, and that’s where the evaluation happens.

Jeff Gish:                             The title is prescriptive. As I said, “Money never sleeps, entrepreneurs should.” My recommendation is not to talk to a group of entrepreneurs and say, “Hey, just sleep more.” I think that’s sort of like looking out at the ocean and telling the waves to stop crashing to the shore. I don’t think that’s going, I’m going to have much traction with that type of recommendation. However, what I want entrepreneurs and people who advise entrepreneurs to do is to to educate them on their sleep equation. Thinking about that second study, how much sleep do you need per night and are you more or less than that when it’s time to make a big decision like entry into an entrepreneurial venture?

Jeff Gish:                             This deep-level thinking stuff applies to much more than just ideation or evaluation activity. It could be pivoting your business or taking on a strategic partner or making a key hire. These are all things that entrepreneurs do on a frequent basis, and sleep has an effect on all of those activities. And so I’m not asking people to stop hustling and stop grinding. I want you to do that, and I’ve lived that life. But if you are trying to make one of those decisions and you are short on sleep, don’t just wear it like it’s a badge of honor and say, “Well, I don’t need sleep.” Ask for extra time to sleep on a decision. And I think your future self will thank you when you’re down the road and reaping the benefits of that decision. Any questions? That’s it. Please.

Jeff Gish:                             I haven’t investigated the effects of too much sleep. There is research out there that says that once you get to seven or eight hours, the National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours. Once you get to seven or eight hours, there’s diminishing returns on more sleep than that. And in this instance, it could be actually negative returns. If you’re getting 10 to 12 hours of sleep, you can be lethargic the next day. I don’t do research on that, but that’s an interesting notion. Yeah, please.

Speaker 4:                           As an entrepreneur myself. I find that I’m actually measuring the amount of sleep that I get every night-

Jeff Gish:                             via actigraphy or a Fitbit, Apple Watch.

Speaker 4:                           Just my clock.

Jeff Gish:                             Just thinking about it. Okay, that’s great. That’s the way we measured it here, too.

Speaker 4:                           I noticed that what happens is I might be waking up every hour. I’ll go back to sleep after 15 minutes or so, but it’s not a solid sleep. And that’s why I was asking you about the quality of sleep. And if I get anything over six, I definitely feel a more positive of that.

Jeff Gish:                             Yeah, there are noted effects on moods. I mean there are thousands of papers out there on sleep and how it affects cognition and decision making. This is the first of those about sleep and opportunity evaluation. It was just published in our top entrepreneurship journal, and I’m thankful for all the help from my coauthors. And actually I gave this presentation to the faculty here and they helped me develop the ideas and make it even better for the preparation to submit it to the journal.

Jeff Gish:                             I think quality and quantity are correlated. As you get more sleep you also have higher quality, but they aren’t perfectly the same. Paying attention to both I think is important. In this study we talk about quantity, like I mentioned, the the results are robust to to when we measured quality as well. I think each plays an important role, how soundly can you sleep. I think when you’re ruminating on things, there’s an opportunity to be in bed, be asleep, but your mind is still cranking on some stuff that you had going on and that wakes you up. And when you wake up, shoot, you lost opportunity to sleep because you just had a little bit and now you’re on fire. That’s how my brain works anyway. In the back, you’ve had your hand up for a while.

Speaker 5:                           Ignorance was bliss until my husband got me this Apple Watch, and now I know exactly how much I don’t sleep. I would think that would be great to get you more accurate information, have you been using the Apple Watch to [inaudible 00:27:06]?

Jeff Gish:                             There’s research that uses, not Apple Watch technology, but there’s things called ActiGraph, and it’s like the same technology. It measures motion. Some of them even measure breathing patterns and they’ll listen to that. There’s also research that correlates or that looks at whether self-reported sleep matches what the ActiGraph says or what the Apple Watch says, and they’re very close-

Speaker 5:                           They did it.

Jeff Gish:                             … which is good. Yeah, in that research, it’s very close. Several papers that say that, but what you hinted at is that you’re getting more information. Is that always a good thing? There’s some recent research that comes out from one of the coauthors on this paper, University of Washington. He just published a paper about how when you find out this information and you’re paying attention to your sleep patterns, paradoxically it can cause you to sleep less because you’re like, I mentioned rumination before. You’re thinking about it too much and you’re not able to get to sleep because it’s like, “Oh, gosh, I know the importance of sleep, and I know I need to get to sleep. I’m looking at the clock, and the minutes just keep ticking. So where does that put me in there?” There can be some negative effects as well.

Jeff Gish:                             Well, I think you can coach people to understand their sleep equation. I think it’s just hard to tell somebody who has invested his or her life savings into a business, perhaps, has asked their friends, family, and other investors to back them in this venture. It’s hard for them to say, “No, I’m never going to let forego sleep in order to make this business go.” I guess I’m trying to give more balanced advice. And I think coaching could give that balanced advice, just to understand.

Jeff Gish:                             Because what happens is, and the reason I make this recommendation is because there’s a recent paper in 2017 that looked at risk-taking propensity and your willingness to dive into a risk. It’s a psychology paper. They serve these risky activities that people, and they look at people who are well rested, at least seven hours of sleep. People who are sleep restricted between four and five hours, and people who have total sleep deprivation. And which do you think takes the biggest risks. I’m curious, what do you think? [crosstalk 00:29:06] Maybe some people say the middle. That’s right. The people in the middle take the biggest risks, and I think it’s because these people did not sleep the previous night. That’s really salient in your mind. You’re like, “Okay, I’ve got to focus on what I’m doing right now. I know that that’s part of that’s exactly what happened last night, and it’s affecting the way I think.”

Jeff Gish:                             These people like entrepreneurs perhaps who were lack of sleep as a badge of honor are marching forward as though everything’s fine, and I think that that’s why people need to understand their sleep equation such that you’re not just marching forward as though everything’s fine. You understand that if you haven’t received enough sleep or the amount of sleep that you need, then you’re going to have these cognitive deficits that exist with sleep deprivation or with sleep restriction.

Jeff Gish:                             I love this notion of looking at diet and exercise and how these play a role. The people in the sleep-deprivation experiment were not allowed to take naps. We asked them about that to make sure that there was continuous sleep deprivation. Naps have a restorative effect, especially if you’ve lost sleep the previous night. You can immediately go back into the deep sleep when you take a nap. I don’t look at naps in this paper, but I think they hold the promise to have some of that restorative capacity that absent a good night’s sleep, you can take a nap and maybe recover from that. But there are other ways you can recover from it, too. And this gets back to what Paul was saying about, you know, mindfulness meditation. One of my good friends Chuck Murnieks at Oregon State University just published a paper about… They looked at both mindfulness and sleep, and showed that mindfulness can help entrepreneurs fix some of those ill-cognitive effects that exists with sleep deprivation. So mindfulness practices hold great promise to, in the absence of good sleep, because it nothing beats a good night of sleep, but if you’re trying to repair that and mindfulness practices hold promise in that area, too. Yeah.

Speaker 6:                           Is there something to look at where even if you get the same amount asleep, if I end up sleeping earlier than I’m used to or later I still get that seven hours, I still feel like myself the next day. So even though I’m getting the same quantity, the time that I’m going to sleep tends to affect me the next day.

Jeff Gish:                             Something in the future, I’ve actually got a paper that looks at both the homeostatic process of sleep. Homeostatic is trying to keep your body in stasis, getting enough sleep so that you can… This is more of a homeostatic paper looking at balancing out the amount of sleep that your body needs and then getting that amount of sleep. What you’re talking about is more of a circadian process. So people have these 24-hour clocks, and so if you sleep at the wrong period in that clock, it can throw you off. There are some similar effects that exist, especially for people who are, let’s say, morning people, and they’re asked to work in the evening. Or if you’re an evening person and you’re asked to work in the morning.

Jeff Gish:                             I have a teenage son. Those of you who have kids out here can attest that they’re starting the high schools at like seven o’clock in the morning. And my teenage son getting up at six is like not a good thing. Even if he’s got the same and appropriate amount of sleep the previous night, he’s off his game because he’s not a morning person. So chrono type and these circadian processes can also play a role. Again, that’s not what I looked at here, but I think there’s potential there.

Jeff Gish:                             You can accumulate sleep debt. Some people tell themselves, well this is how much I’m sleeping, so this is how much I should sleep. And that’s not always the case. It’s hard to know. Like I said, especially if you’re wearing lack of sleep as a badge of honor, it’s hard to know whether… You’ve got all this extra time. Great. I want to keep practicing this. Unless you do some activity that gives you disconfirming information you don’t know, but you can accrue sleep debt.

Jeff Gish:                             And in fact there’s some papers out there that they recognize that five days of sleep restriction, this is less than five hours of sleep. People in a driving simulation are just as bad at driving as somebody who’s over the legal limit of being drunk. It has real cognitive deficits that exist. You can fix that in less than five days of recovery sleep. I think that’s because when you’re, when you’re sleep restricted, the homeostasis process that happens, your body wants to recover. And so when you fall asleep, you fall into a deeper sleep quicker than you would on a normal night. And some of you, maybe if you’ve worn yourself out over a week and you get the recovery sleep on the weekend, you might have seen this, you lay down on your head, it’s the pillow and you’re out. It doesn’t take as long to recover from accruing a sleep debt. But you need to do that if you’re not sleeping as much as you should. Again. Yeah.

Speaker 4:                           How do you know how much you’re supposed to sleep if you’re chronically not sleeping?

Jeff Gish:                             Well, you can do sleep studies. The reason I studied this topic is because I’m bad at sleep myself. I haven’t done a sleep study, but I’m thinking about going in and doing those. They will actually monitor your brain waves and how well you’re sleeping and seeing if you got enough sleep overnight. That’s one recommendation. That’s an expensive recommendation. But I’d like to go try that and see. But you also have a feeling, this subjective feeling of I’m getting enough sleep or I’m not getting enough sleep. Each of us sleeps. Very few of us go with no sleep. Well, nobody goes with no sleep. We’re humans. And so we’ve had a lot of experience that we’ve accrued over time in our lives that tells us, “Yeah, I got a good night’s sleep last night,” or “No, I didn’t.” And so you’ve got to just listen to that, short of going in and doing a sleep study to find out what’s good for you. If you’re paying attention to it, I think we’re pretty good judges of how much sleep we need. Yeah.

Speaker 7:                           I heard somewhere at one time that a power nap should never be more than 45 minutes. Is there any research done to prove that?

Jeff Gish:                             If you’ve got more than 45 minutes to take a power nap, I want your job. I think this gets back to the comment about the lethargic feeling that you have. If you’d sleep for more than 45 minutes, you have an opportunity to go into REM sleep, and the phases that your body goes through when you’re going through sleep can have an effect on the ability to wake up and be productive after you wake up. There’s the guy that I talked about before, Chris Barnes at University of Washington, he advocates for strategic naps. These strategic naps are more like 10 to 15 minute naps as opposed to 45 minute naps. I mean he first argues for a good night of sleep, but absent a good night’s sleep, take a shorter nap such that you can wake up and be productive afterwards. Because I think the lethargy does set in if your body gets into a wave where you’re into a deep sleep after 45 minutes, or maybe not even that long.

Speaker 8:                           Is the sleep-deprived culture something that’s here in the United States among entrepreneurs or is it a global phenomenon or is there another country that does it better?

Jeff Gish:                             That’s a good question. The culture, does it exist other places? I think that the notion to hustle when you’ve got a business on your back exist anywhere. For entrepreneurs, I think particularly, it is pervasive around many different cultures. I didn’t measure that in my study, but sleep attitudes would differ in a whatever your culture is and your organization. If you have a less individualistic organization and more collective country that you live in or the culture that you live in, perhaps you’re better at sleeping in the normal amount. If it’s not as competitive and your job, maybe you sleep more. This sleep problem and people sleeping less than they need is a worldwide phenomenon, and it’s particularly salient to the United States and other cultures where competition is a big deal. I can think of some East Asian cultures where people don’t get enough sleep there either. Japan as an example. Yeah.

Jeff Gish:                             Thanks. Well, Hey, I really appreciate everyone coming down and getting breakfast, listening to me drone on and on about sleep and learn about your sleep equation. Know how much you need to sleep, and I appreciate you coming today. Thanks.

Paul Jarley:                         Price. How skeptical Jeff is that his research will change people’s behavior. Maybe it’s because people control their behavior more than they do outcomes and think that more work is always better than less. Maybe it’s because technology has put us all on call 24/7. Maybe entrepreneurs believe investors see a willingness to forego sleep as a proxy for commitment and shy away from those who don’t seem to be all-in. There are exceptions to this rule of course, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos come to mind, as successful people who highlight the importance of sleep. But my guess is that nothing’s really going to change unless we instill better sleeping habits in our children.

Paul Jarley:                         How many of you have kids who have longer days than you do as they go to school, participate in sports, build a resume by volunteering and engaging in extracurricular activities, and then have to go home to do homework just before they go to bed. Many college students have the same cycle but at a part time job on top of it. It’s not just entrepreneurs who are victims of this logic. Will snoozing your way to success become a thing or will people just drink more caffeine? My money is on the latter. What do you think?

Paul Jarley:                         Check us out online and share your thoughts at can also find extended interviews with our guests and notes from the show. Special thanks to my producer, Josh Miranda, and the whole team at the Office of Outreach And Engagement here at the UCF College Of Business. And thank you for listening. Until next time, charge on.


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