Power Players

The math behind Jeff Bezos' 8 hours of sleep—and why he says going 'crazy' with 4 hours isn't worth it

Blue Origin and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

Running one of the world's largest companies doesn't stop Jeff Bezos from getting his eight hours of sleep. While the Amazon founder says sometimes getting eight hours is impossible, he's very focused on it.

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Why? "I think better. I have more energy. My mood is better," Bezos said in a discussion at the Economic Club of Washington in 2018.

The math behind Bezos' eight hours of sleep

Bezos is very calculative about why he believes eight hours of sleep is the key to boosting productivity and making high-quality decisions.

He offered a very convincing example: "So let's go crazy and say I slept four hours a day. I'd get four so-called productive hours back. So before I had, say, 12 hours of productive time during any waking day, now all of a sudden I have 12 plus four — I have 16 productive hours."

That's 33% more time to make decisions, he explained. In other words, if he was going to make, say, 100 decisions, he can more make 33 more.

"But is that really worth it if the quality of those decisions might be lower because you're tired or grouchy or any number of things? Probably not," he said.

Quality over quantity

"Right now, I'm working on a quarter that's going to reveal itself in 2023 sometime," Bezos said at the 2018 talk. "You need to be thinking two or three years in advance, and if you are, then why do I need to make 100 low-quality decisions today?"

Moreover, a 2017 study published in the Annals of Neurology found that shorting ourselves on sleep may lead to making riskier decisions — and we may not even realize we're doing it.

"The study provides, for the first time, evidence that insufficient sleep restoration over circumscribed cortical areas leads to aberrant behavior," the study's authors noted.

"Warren Buffett says he's good if he makes three good decisions a year," Bezos said. "And I really believe that."

As for Bezos' daily routine...

What makes eight hours of sleep possible? For Bezos, the answer lies in his daily routines.

"I like to putter in the morning," he said. "I get up early. I go to bed early. I like to read the newspaper. I like to have coffee. I like to have breakfast with my kids before they go to school."

Bezos also prefers to do his "high-IQ meetings" before lunch.

"Anything that's going to be really mentally challenging is a 10 a.m. meeting.," he said. "Because by 5 p.m., I'm like, 'I can't think more about this issue today. Let's try this again tomorrow at 10 a.m.'"

Then it's on to eight hours of sleep.

Tom Popomaronis is a leadership expert and vice president of innovation at Massive Alliance. His work has been featured in Forbes, Fast Company, Inc., and The Washington Post. In 2014, Tom was named one of the "40 Under 40" by the Baltimore Business Journal. Follow him on LinkedIn.

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