“Sleep is for the weak, Mr. President”

Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense told that to President John F. Kennedy during Cuban Missile Crisis.

“Sleep is for the wise, Mr. McNamara.”

And my overworked colleagues too, unaware of medical research continue to argue against sufficient sleep. Here is a list of arguments made by skeptics of sufficient sleep and my responses.

  • I don’t need eight hours of sleep. Studies have shown that sleep restriction for 4 hours, 6 hours (compared to 8 hours) for 14 days causes a dose dependent decline in neurocognitive performance.
  • I only need five hours of sleep. Short sleeper gene, a rare mutation, is present only 3% of the population (Ying-Hui Fu, University of California, San Francisco.) Majority of leaders get less than 6 hours of sleep certainly at the time of major opportunity or catastrophe.
  • I can fight sleep deprivation with strong motivation. Motivation improves attention but not creativity, flexibility, mood, perception, and information management.
  • I have achieved a lot by sleeping less. You could achieve even more by working on your alertness intelligence.
  • I don’t perceive the deficit in my performance. Sleep deprivation adversely affects frontomedial cortex (the executive center) which is essential for successful self-evaluation. This makes us unaware of our deficit.
  • I am highly productive. You have increased your output as a worker/manager, at the expense of executive output.
  • Stakes are so high that sleep has to be on back burner. This is exactly the reason   you should be giving sleep a top priority. Also there are alertness maximization techniques (discussed in Section II and III of my book Sleep Well, Lead Well) which can help you.
  • I don’t want to spend 1/3 of my life sleeping away. Investment in sleep will enrich your life both at home and at work qualitatively.
  • I will sleep when I am dead. Studies unfortunately have shown increased mortality associated with insufficient sleep. You have to sleep 8 hours every night if you want a successful career that can span 5-6 decades.

Sleep Well, Lead Well.

Sleep Well, Live Well.


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