July 25, 2024

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The Most Important Element Of Tech Entrepreneur Success Is Measurable And Free

Jeff Kahn is co-founder and CEO of RISE, an energy management app that works all day to help users feel and perform their best.

As a tech entrepreneur, your success isn’t contingent upon how innovative your technology is but on your ability to monetize it. To effectively monetize, entrepreneurial skills are essential. The good news is, entrepreneurship can be learned, and the skills and characteristics of a successful entrepreneur can be enhanced by lowering your sleep debt.

What Is Sleep Debt And How Does It Impact The Tech Entrepreneur?

Sleep science shows that meeting your individual, genetically-determined sleep need has the biggest impact on how we feel and function. That’s because, despite eight hours of sleep being heralded as the golden standard for a good night’s rest, not everyone needs eight hours of sleep. In fact, while the average sleep need is around 8 hours and 10 minutes (give or take 44 minutes), 1 in 7 people actually need nine hours or more.

Furthermore, when you don’t sleep for the duration that your body specifically needs, you accumulate “sleep debt,” which is the number of hours of sleep you’ve missed out on over the past 14 days, relative to your sleep need. Sleep debt affects every aspect of our feeling and functioning and is the single most effective predictor of our daily energy and productivity levels, our cognitive state, and our emotional and physical health.

Because sleep debt is calculated over a roughly two-week period, how we feel at this very moment isn’t just a result of just last night’s sleep, it’s the result of those other 13 nights as well. Essentially, your ability to feel and function at your best on any given day is the result of regularly meeting your sleep need. Akin to the deliberate ways you practice exercise or nutrition, consistency is crucial if you’re going to see ROI.

You can think of sleep as the foundation that holds all of the traits of a successful tech entrepreneur together. Sleep debt — the burden imposed on the brain when it doesn’t get as much sleep as it needs — puts cracks and holes in that foundation, making it impossible for the traits of a successful tech entrepreneur to truly rise. 

By lowering your sleep debt to under five hours (the threshold at which research shows you’re still performing near your best), you can enhance the precise faculties needed for successful tech entrepreneurship. 

Uncovering Your Sleep Need To Avoid High Sleep Debt

The first step in assessing how much sleep debt we have is understanding our sleep needs. In the absence of knowing how much sleep our bodies naturally need, research shows we are likely to underestimate our sleep need and overestimate how much time we’re actually asleep. Further confounding things is our biological propensity to subjectively adapt to sleep deprivation while our performance and well-being suffers. 

Tips to help you uncover your individual sleep need include the following:

A Noon Self-Check-In: Try to make it until noon without a nap or a cup of coffee. If you reach midday and you feel like you can’t function without either, it’s a good sign you are sleep-deprived.

The No Alarm Clock Challenge: Don’t set your morning alarm for one week. Then assess how long you are sleeping, as well as your natural bedtime/waketime.

Turn To Technology: Sleep tech in certain apps, wearables or the sleep tracking technology included in your phone (i.e., Apple HealthKit and Google Fit) offer easy ways to calculate your sleep need and track your sleep debt.

How To Pay Down Sleep Debt

While knowing our sleep needs is imperative to lessen the likelihood of accruing high sleep debt, it’s unrealistic to think we won’t rack up debt at all. Fortunately, sleep debt is actionable and high debt is reversible. 

Going to bed earlier, taking naps at the right time and waking up later (but no more than an hour past your usual wake time) are three strategies that can help to catch up on sleep without disturbing your circadian rhythm (natural body clock). A fourth strategy involves sleep efficiency (the time you spend asleep). This can be helped by improvements to our sleep hygiene. Good sleep hygiene will also help us generally meet our sleep need and avoid accumulating high sleep debt.

Science-backed tips to improve sleep hygiene include:

Prep The Perfect Sleep Environment: The optimal sleep environment is cool, dark, and quiet. Set your thermostat between 65-68 degrees, invest in blackout curtains and/or an eye mask and use a white noise machine and/or earplugs. 

Implement A Bedtime Wind-Down Routine: Your brain and body need to decelerate before bed. In the one to two hours leading up to bedtime, disconnect from daytime stressors with yoga or meditation, a warm bath or shower or calming music.

Time Your Exposure To Light: Light is the most potent cue for the timing of your circadian rhythm. Get sunlight soon after waking up and remove light (especially blue light) 90 minutes before bedtime.

Be Consistent: Create a sleep schedule and stick with it. A regular bedtime and wake time helps with circadian alignment, which in turn leads to higher quality sleep, better health and productivity.

Sleep = Success

Sleep is an often overlooked but essential component to entrepreneurial success in the tech world. Effective entrepreneurship requires peak executive functioning and high stamina, so it stands to reason that when you are suffering from sleep deprivation you won’t be performing at your ceiling — in fact, you’ll be lowering the floor. This is the case for any profession, but it is especially true for tech entrepreneurs, who require a demanding cocktail of mental, emotional and social acuity and agility — all faculties heavily impacted by sleep debt.

That’s why measuring and managing your sleep debt is one of the simplest, easiest and cheapest ways to guarantee an ROI on your tech startup. Luckily, sleep analytics is more advanced and consumer-friendly than ever. However, not all sleep tracking tech is created equal. Choosing a tech solution that specifically tracks sleep debt rather than sleep quality or sleep-stage tracking gives you the best chance of living to your full potential as a tech entrepreneur — practically overnight.

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