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Sleep Deprivation: Just as Bad for Performance as Alcohol
 

Feel proud of your 70-hour weeks? You may as well boast about working while drunk.

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Just how deep does the lionization of long work hours run in the entrepreneurial community? Pretty deep, according to Forbes writer Michael Simmons. When he started asking around Silicon Valley if 70-hour work weeks were worth it, he noticed founders turned cagey.

"Talking publicly about the topic brought fear of judgment," he wrote. "Two of the people I interviewed said that things like sharing vacation photos was a taboo as investors might see them. People who start ‘lifestyle’ businesses and who talk about balance and stress are often put into a bucket of people who aren’t serious about business."

In fact, taking breaks or getting a good night's rest are viewed as signs of weakness. Some even exaggerate how many hours they put in, according to time use expert Laura Vanderkam.

This valorization may be popular among entrepreneurs, but it has Julia Kirby, an editor at the Harvard Business Review, hopping mad. So mad, in fact, she wrote a strongly-worded blog post, "Change the World and Get to Bed by 10:00," a must-read for any professional.

Kirby includes a chart every business owner should take a look at. Getting drunk and not sleeping enough have roughly the same impact on performance, and neither are good. If you're coming to work consistently sleep-deprived you're basically functioning drunk. Take a look: 

Kirby argues we need a social movement against sleep deprivation much like the cultural shift against smoking. Whether Hollywood producers will heed her words is an open question, but as a business owner in possession of a pillow and an alarm clock, you can take action today simply by going to bed at 10pm.

Or take things a step further, as Kirby suggests, and encourage your team to do the same. "If you're a corporate leader, you have the reasons and you have the means to change today's dysfunctional culture around sleep."

Do you think our cultural attitude toward sleep is unhealthy?

Last updated: May 21, 2013

JESSICA STILLMAN is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.
@EntryLevelRebel




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