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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/16376/little-sleep-more-productivity/

Little sleep, more productivity

April 5, 2011 by

The Wall Street Journal’s Melinda Black has an interesting piece in today’s edition entitled “The Sleepless Elite.”   One to three percent of the population require less than six hours of sleep to function well.  In fact, she points out that not only do these short sleepers function, but they are upbeat, tend to be thin and energetic.

Short sleeper go all out, all the time.  “These people talk fast.  They never stop.  They’re always on the up side of life,” says Daniel J. Buysse, a psychiatrist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and a past president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, a professional group.

“Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Leonardo da Vinci were too busy to sleep much, according to historical accounts. Winston Churchill and Thomas Edison came close but they were also fond of taking naps, which may disqualify them as true short sleepers,” writes Black.

The short sleeper I knew was the late Ronald Yanke, who died a few years ago at age 68.    Yanke was tall and thin, and constantly in motion.  He could barely sit through a two-hour board meeting.  Like the short sleepers Black mentions, Yanke was constantly upbeat and a serial entrepreneur.   One of the three original investors in Micron Technology, Yanke owned two sawmills in Montana, a charter air service company, and a company that manufacturers firefighting equipment. He was also a rancher and owned vast amounts of timberland in the western United States as well as owning and developing a number of other real estate projects. Yanke also held significant ownership interests in a mechanical contracting firm, a manufactured housing firm and two banks.

His friend Jim Nelson said at Yanke’s funeral that Ron was the “hardest worker anyone had ever seen,” and “the hardest player anyone had ever seen.”

Another friend Tom Nickolson said Yanke’s only speed was peddle to the metal.    Black explains that short sleepers “have a high tolerance for physical pain and psychological setbacks.”  An especially good trait for entrepreneurs to have.  “They encounter obstacles, they just pick themselves up and try again,”  says Christopher Jones, a University of Utah neurologist and sleep scientist.  I remember Ron Yanke saying “let’s do something, even if it’s wrong.”

For now, us normal sleepers can’t train ourselves to sleep less, but scientists are working on it.    Human geneticist Ying-Hui Fu at the University of California-San Francisco says, “Everybody can use more waking hours, even if you just watch movies.”

Ron Yanke had better things to do than watch movies.


J. Murray April 5, 2011 at 5:58 pm

Modern lighting is the key reason for poor sleep habits. If you engage in the go to the bed with the sun method, you’ll find your sleep patterns superior. A proper sleeping habit is about 3-5 hours of sleep followed by waking up for an hour, then another 3-5 to get to daybreak.

King George April 5, 2011 at 7:25 pm

In the northern climes this would mean sleeping at 4pm in the winter, but there are programs like F.Lux that can help out if you use the PC at night.

I wouldn’t mind being able to prosper on 6hrs …

J. Murray April 5, 2011 at 7:51 pm

That’s quite far north. Still, avoiding remaining up in artificial light tends to make sleep difficult and two 3-5 hour blocks is still preferable. Of course, this is whenever possible.

augusto April 5, 2011 at 8:03 pm

The talk about sleeping is cool, I wish neurologists would also research on how we can train our brain to become less fearful of the world and more willing to take risks. It is quite frustrating – to say the least – to see the wealth of opportunities that pass in front of us every single day, and be unable to act on them.

It’s incredibly sad to realize that my country is growing at an amazing pace, and foreigners want to live, work and invest here, and not open a language school, among so many other ideas. There are hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of vegetarians in the country, and not a single country-wide brand of vegetarian food. The country throws away fresh fruit, because only the seeds are “valuable” – even though there are people starving all over the place…

But when you grow up hearing, “go to school, get a diploma, and you’ll get a good job – and if that fails, you can always try to get a government job”, and “being a business owner is too risk – it’s better to be employee”, it’s quite hard.

And, oh, yeah, there are neurology clinics to help people regain movement of paralized limbs, and there is dr. Michael Merzenich program to help develop reading abilities, so why not set up a clinic to help people break out of the “all I want is a job” mentality? (another business idea right there!)

Sorry for the rant :-/

Donald Rowe April 5, 2011 at 8:33 pm

“peddle to the metal”

Damn spell checkers.

Sorry, I’ll go to bed now.

Robert T April 5, 2011 at 11:15 pm


Paving the way for “open-source” copy editors. :-)

Inquisitor April 5, 2011 at 9:22 pm

I function quite well on 6 hours or so of sleep myself. I usually “programme” myself for 8 hour sleep but find myself needing 2 or so less than that.

J. Murray April 6, 2011 at 5:10 am

“who died a few years ago at age 68″

Here’s a thought, I wonder how much the constantly on the go and low sleep behavior impacted dying so young. Operating on a permanent 6 hour sleep schedule would be as damaging as operating on a permanent 8. Sleep should be relative to the amount of energy spent the prior day to allow for proper recuperation. At 68 years, assuming 6 hours a night, or 18 hours of time awake, for a 365 day year, this translates into 18,615 days worth of awake time ((68*365*18)/24). If he went with an 8 hour schedule and could push out an additional 20 years of life because of it, that translates into 21,413 days awake.

If sleeping 8 hours a night means getting 7.6 years more time for living, then a 6 hour schedule isn’t exactly a good idea nor does it provide a leg up.

Again, this is just postulation as I have no idea of the man’s health or if his passing was related to the sleep habits or something else entirely.

Vanmind April 23, 2011 at 1:54 pm

Yup. Speed kills.

Greshams-law April 6, 2011 at 11:05 am

Sounds like Yanke was a remarkable guy. I love stories about such people, keep them coming!

Inkfarmer April 6, 2011 at 3:31 pm

Well, I’m certainly not a short sleeper. I function well on 7 hours but my optimum is around 8. It would be interesting to see a study that looked at sleeping patterns based on personality types or career choices. My instinct and personal experience tells me that artist types tend to sleep more than average.

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