Sleep, It Does a Body Good.

Jeff Bezos does it, Sheryl Sandberg does it, and many successful entrepreneurs do it.  They throw in the towel and go to sleep instead of burning the midnight oil. A recent study found that 60 percent of college students do not get enough sleep. Student entrepreneurs might be thinking, “With my startup and my clubs, not to mention my classes, there is not enough time in the day. I need to finish a few more things on my long to do list before I can go to bed.” However, to be a successful student and entrepreneur, you need to be able to focus and make good decisions.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends people 18-25 years old get seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Why is sleep so important? The National Institute of Health describes it this way:

“Sleep helps your brain work properly. While you’re sleeping, your brain is preparing for the next day. It’s forming new pathways to help you learn and remember information. Studies show that a good night’s sleep improves learning. Whether you’re learning math, [or] how to play the piano […] sleep helps enhance your learning and problem-solving skills. Sleep also helps you pay attention, make decisions, and be creative.”

Paying attention, making decisions and being creative are three important daily attributes needed to be a successful entrepreneur and student. Just one extra hour of sleep can make the difference.  With sufficient sleep you won’t feel groggy or struggle to get through the day. You will feel less stressed about all you want to accomplish.

Still not convinced you should make the effort to get more sleep? Matt Walker, professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley and Director of the Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory, says that the number of people who can survive on six hours of sleep or less and show no impairment is “zero.”  Yes, zero!  So if you are getting six hours of sleep instead of seven, you are coping with an impairment that can easily be addressed.  Set an alarm on your phone so when it gets to be that time in the evening, you are reminded to wrap things up and get to bed earlier to get the rest you need so you are not impaired and you can be your best, most productive, focused and  creative, problem-solving self.

Research has shown that sleep is so important that many startups are focusing on data analysis and innovative wearables to enhance sleep. Headspace, a meditation app, has expanded its offerings with a sleep single to help people sleep. In 2014, Northwestern University alumni Jeff Kahn, Jacob Kelter and Leon Sasson founded Rise Science, a comprehensive sleep-coaching program for elite athletes that coordinates everything needed to improve sleep behavior and consequently performance. Jeff describes sleep as, “The most potent performance enhancing activity that exists.”

Here are some tips taken from Northwestern Human Resources for how to get a good night’s sleep:

  • Try to maintain a regular sleep and wake schedule. During the quarter, this should be doable, since you have classes on a set schedule.
  • Establish a regular, relaxing routine before bed. For example, read a book instead of looking at a screen (phone or computer, even with the filtering on) for the last 30 minutes before you go to sleep.
  • Avoid eating and drinking, particularly drinks with caffeine, two to three hours before bedtime.

Getting that extra hour of sleep will help you to work more efficiently the next day and thus be more productive.  Give it a try and good luck catching those extra zzz’s–you’ll be happy you did.


Elisa Mitchell is the Assistant Director of Operations and Finance at The Garage and enjoys helping each student start a unique entrepreneurial journey.  She is an accomplished attorney and CPA and brings strong organizational skills, attention to detail and a can-do attitude to every project. She is thrilled to be a part of The Garage.