In 2014, I was playing a dangerous game. The sad thing is, I was in denial about it. I had the best intentions, and even had my family in mind while doing it, but I didn’t realize how damaging it was. I was a member of a team that so many people join with pride and dedication, believing it’s the only way to achieve their desired goals. I was on the team of entrepreneurs who don’t sleep enough and hustle way too hard.
It was a sad existence, really. I was exhausted all the time. Sometimes I needed to pull over on the side of the road midday because sleep deprivation was getting the best of me. But as a working mother with two young kids, an aging parent who recently had a stroke, and a strong desire to stop working for “the man,” making a lot of time for sleep didn’t seem feasible. How on earth was I going to stay afloat if I slept too much (and too much means more than 4 hours a night)?
But in August of that year, I got sick. It wasn’t anything life threatening, but contracting Hand, Foot, Mouth disease as my age was alarming enough. An illness that typically strikes small children came for me full force because my lack of sleep left my immune system in a compromised state. And let me tell you that although your child isn’t in bad shape when they contract this disease, it turns adults into a hot mess. I was in tears, And I was also so disappointed and annoyed. I knew something had to change but I couldn’t figure out how to make it happen.
That day I realized that I had relinquished my power to choose. As a result, choices in my life were being made by default. I decided that I was going to choose what matters. I chose sleep.
We live in a time where people think sleep is for suckers. If you sleep 7-9 hours a night, you are left feeling like you’re lazy. No one who sleeps that much can be a hustler, right? You can sleep when you’re dead is what they say. Work needs to get done, and if you are sleeping that doesn’t happen. Drink coffee, pull yourself together and get to work is the message being shared with so many entrepreneurs.
But here’s the thing: there is nothing cool about depriving your body of rest. Sleeping 3-4 hours a night doesn’t mean you are guaranteed a win. Functioning at a lower level because your body isn’t rested doesn’t mean you’ve mastered the art of “hustling hard.” It means you’ve lost your mind.
And listen, I am friends with lots of entrepreneurs. These are people I respect and admire. I’ve learned so much from them, and I think they are doing great things in life. And although I know failing to sleep enough has allowed many of them to reach their current level of success, I just can’t cosign this “#teamnosleep” culture. I can’t sit back and act like I don’t think consequences come with it. That would be phony, and I don’t do phony.
The human body needs rest. And even if you are operating well without it, I promise you can operate at a higher level with it. And if your lack of sleep isn’t causing any health issues at the moment, consider yourself lucky. For many people, failing to sleep enough can lead to memory loss, weight gain, hypertension, heart attacks, and heart disease. And if you have an undiagnosed sleep disorder, like sleep apnea, the effects of sleeping too little are even more harmful.
Clearly I am not a doctor. but I am also not crazy. I can read, and I know there is enough evidence available for all of us to realize that the need for sleep is no laughing matter. I know so many people do it because it feels like the only way to achieve success. It feels like a temporary evil that we must accept. But my question is: Are you willing to deal with the possible consequences that come with your decision to forego sleep so you can hustle hard?
Yes, you want to create generational wealth for your family. I want the same thing. But don’t you also want to be here to enjoy some of that wealth with them? I know I do.
Here are 5 reasons why I plan to sleep my way to success. It may take me a little longer to get there, but at least I know my body and my mind will be intact when I arrive.
My kids need me.
We have a mortgage and bills to pay. We are not rich. Financial freedom is definitely a goal. Creating generation wealth is something I strive for. But if my kids had to choose between wealth or having me around for another 50 years, am confident they would choose to have me around. I’m not saying building wealth isn’t important. I’m just saying I’m not willing to shorten my lifespan in the process.
I need sleep to function at a higher level.
I would love to act like I’m 21 and I can pull an all-nighter and still ace an exam, but I’m not. And the truth is, I probably should not have been doing that when I was 21 either. With age comes a greater need for rest. A lack of sleep is associated with lower brain functioning, memory loss, and poor judgment. I’m not a complete idiot when I don’t sleep, but I also am not as sharp as I am when I do. I suspect the same is true for you. Sleeping allows our brains to rest and recover so we can perform at optimal levels.
Sleep deprivation will damage my relationships.
Nothing makes me crankier than being exhausted. My husband notices it, my friends notice it, and my poor kids definitely notice it. Try dealing with two high-energy kids when you’ve been sleeping for 3-4 hours all week. It’s a bad look to say the least. The more rested you are, the more rational and patient you are with the people you love most.
My family history.
I have a long family history of strokes. My aunt, uncle, and grandmother all died as a result of strokes. My mother is a stroke and cancer survivor, and I have a family history of diabetes and depression. I say all this so you can realize why I don’t take having good healthy lightly. I know what my story can look like if I fail to sleep well and take care of myself. I refuse to make a string of bad choices to create that story,
I’m okay with the slower path.
Sometimes it seems like everyone is making moves and doing big things, and I am left wondering if I’m just not doing enough. But the truth is, I am doing enough. I am doing the best I can with what I have. I may not reach my goals as quickly as others, or as quickly as I’d like, but I will reach my goals with my sanity and health intact. That matters to me more than anything.
I spent my time on #teamnosleep, and I am just not about that life anymore. I’m not knocking you if you are. I just pray that you take the time to make sure your health is in order. Achieving your dreams is important, but it’s not more important than your life. If the lack of sleep has you feeling life crap, or if you have medical symptoms that you’ve been ignoring, make an appointment to see your doctor soon. Let’s try to hustle hard
As a Brooklyn, NY native, I will never knock the hustle. But I think we owe it to ourselves and the people we love to find a way to hustle hard and smart.