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Don’t want your startup to fail? Arianna Huffington tells founders to go to bed

TechCrunch TechCrunch 18/04/2016 Sarah Buhr

Sleep deprivation is the undoing of startup founders, according to Arianna Huffington.

“There is this kind of founder myth that if you are a founder you can’t afford to get enough sleep,” she told me over the phone while catching a plane back to New York. “The truth is three-quarters of startups fail and if founders got more sleep they’d have a better chance of succeeding.”

Wanting to get more sleep isn’t the problem for most of us. It’s fitting in the recommended seven to 9 hours of sleep with work, eating, exercise, relationships and a social life – and on top of that founders need to spend a lot of time growing their fledgling company.

But sleep is “non-negotiable” in Arianna’s world – and to prove it she invited me to sleep in her $8 million Manhattan apartment sleep paradise (complete with a hot bath, candles, and “luscious pillows”) to get some much-needed shut-eye.

Ok, not me exactly, but whoever the lucky winner is on her (now closed) Airbnb contest.

I applied right under the wire and will let you know if I win (I’m told I’m up against Kara Swisher), but clearly Arianna is serious enough about our lack of sleep, she’s willing to let strangers (and stray reporters) into her bedroom to get some zzzzz.

But she’s been on the sleep train for a while. Arianna wanted to install “nap pods” at TechCrunch several years ago. The Huffington Post and AOL (parent company to TC and HP) both have nap rooms. Sounds dreamy but never happened here.

I‘m told I would not want to nap at AOL because people have used the space for “other activities.”

But we’re working too many hours and giving up on sleep and it could be affecting America’s bottom line, says the Huffington Post founder.

She rattled off half a dozen executives who’d collapsed or traumatically suffered from a lack of sleep last year – including United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz and JP Morgan’s head of M&A Jimmy Lee (who died unexpectedly).

The Huffington Post founder collapsed from exhaustion herself a few years back, leading to her sleep obsession.

“We now have the most amazing science that proves without doubt sleep deprivation affects every aspect of our health and our productivity,” she told me.

Easy for a famous, jet-setting CEO to say but proper sleep is treated as more of a luxury for many workers of the world.

And there are plenty of examples of successful executives who don’t need much sleep – Jack Dorsey, Donald Trump and Martha Stewart among them.

These people are the genetically exceptional “sleepless elite” probably designed in a secret Russian space lab. But, according to science, most of us do need to spend a third of our lives uninterrupted under the covers to function.

Arianna seems to be making headway among Silicon Valley’s elite – She sleep-trained Uber’s Travis Kalanick recently.

But you don’t need to win a contest or be a successful founder for some help. Arianna’s new book “The Sleep Revolution” outlines how we can sleep better, too.

The advice is obvious – no caffeine after 2 pm and keep your bedroom dark and quiet – but like exercise and eating right, a lot of us probably don’t do it anyway.

And sacrifices will be made – no tech in the bedroom and you might not get through all of those critically acclaimed Netflix dramas – Arianna tells me she’s only seen one episode of House of Cards because sleep is the priority.

But then, maybe you’ll think clearly and your startup won’t fail.

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