Why Do the Most Successful People Sleep So Much?
According to researchers from the University of Illinois, the more sleep a person gets, the more optimistic they are about life.
Why is optimism, and thus sleep, so important?
Reason #1 – Optimists Are More Successful
Martin Seligman was a Psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania. In the mid-1980’s, he created a Style Questionnaire that MetLife’s new salesmen were all required to complete. The responses to the Questionnaire helped Seligman classify each salesman as skewing more towards optimism or pessimism.
After two years of selling, Seligman compared the success of each salesman to the answers on the Questionnaires. What he found was eye-opening – the MetLife salesmen who skewed towards optimism outsold the pessimists by 20% in year one and 50% in year two.
Reason #2 – Optimists Live Longer
Telomeres are the caps at the end of each chromosome. When your Telomeres unravel, the chromosomes fall apart and cells are unable to divide in order to create new cells to replace them.
Numerous studies have found a direct correlation between the length of Telomeres and life expectancy. The longer your Telomere, the longer you will live.
Becca Levy is a Professor of Epidemiology/Psychology at the Yale School of Public Health. She is also the lead author of a prominent study on Telomeres. Levy found that those who were more upbeat and positive had longer Telomeres and better health.
Reason #3 – Optimism Maximizes Brain Performance
When you are enveloped in pessimism, negativity or severe stress, you literally shut down half of your pre-frontal cortex, your brain’s executive command and control center.
Have you ever read stories about of individuals who were in “shock” following some type of catastrophic accident? In many of these stories, police and medical emergency personnel who arrive at the scene often describe the accident victims as being in a zombie state. They are uncommunicative, unresponsive and, well, zombie-like. Their very consciousness seems to be closed off to the world around them.
When you are faced with a life or death situation, the fight or flight process of the subconscious mind (limbic system and brain stem) takes control over your brain. It does this by overriding and taking your pre-frontal cortex offline.
- Your visual cortex shuts down, so things your eyes are seeing are not processed by the occipital lobe.
- Your hearing shuts down and all you hear is noise.
- You entire awareness to the outside world goes into shut down mode.
- You become oblivious to everything around you – your external environment.
There’s a good reason for this. During very stressful events, your thinking and focus is intentionally narrowed, so that you can focus on one thing – survival.
Pessimism creates stress and anxiety, triggering a watered-down version of “fight o flight”. Your brain’s CEO, the pre-frontal cortex, when pessimistic, automatically becomes less in control and your focus and awareness becomes narrowed. As a result of this narrowed focus and awareness, you become oblivious to solutions to problems and opportunities.
Those who remain perpetually negative or pessimistic, struggle financially, struggle keeping a job, struggle with relationships and have almost no chance of succeeding in life because they are unable to fully deploy the powers of the pre-frontal cortex to enable them see solutions and opportunities that would help them solve their problems and create a happy life.
Reason #4 – Optimism is Contagious
In a Farmington Heart Study, in which twenty years of data was analyzed, James Fowler, lead study author, found that emotions, such as optimism, spread throughout your social networks – they infect everyone within your inner circle, including your children. This optimism contagion positively affects sales prospects, investors, employees and everyone you do business with.
Reason #5 – 54% of the Rich in My Rich Habits Study Said Their Optimistic Outlook Was Critical to Their Success and thus, Their Ability to Accumulate Wealth.
Reason #6 – Optimism Produces Wealth and Pessimism Produces Poverty
A paper published by the University of Cologne in Germany in the May 2015 Journal of Personality and Psychology, in which more than 68,000 Americans and Europeans were studied, found that pessimism causes poverty.
The study noted that pessimism makes you wary of trusting others. It went on to argue that when you see people in a pessimistic light – untrustworthy, self-interested and deceitful – you are less likely and less willing to rely on others.
Those in the study who were the most pessimistic, also happened to be the poorest. If you are wary about trusting others, you’re likely to have a lower income now and in the future, the study concluded.
Conversely, those in the study who were optimistic, had a more trusting view of others and a higher income than the pessimists.
Pessimists miss out on opportunities because they are less likely to ask for help and less likely to collaborate with others.
Reason #7 – Optimists Have a Higher Risk Tolerance Level
In 1998 and 2001, B.L. Frederickson conducted two studies, measuring cognitive ability and risk tolerance. What he found was that those who were more optimistic had a greater degree of risk tolerance.
Elon Musk is perhaps the best modern day example of someone who was willing to take enormous calculated risk, putting everything he had on the line. His over the top optimism made that possible. He used it to infect everyone he came into contact with. The investors, employees, the government, even NASA became infected with Musk’s unbridled optimism. The all took significant risks in partnering with Musk. Risks they would have otherwise found intolerable.
Reason #8 – Sleep Improves Long-Term Memory
The hippocampus and pre-frontal cortex send signals back and forth to each other, thousands of times, during the REM portion of sleep. Like a well choreographed dance, this process converts short-term memory to long-term memory.
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Tom Corley is an accountant, financial planner, public speaker and author of the books “Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals” and “RichKids: How to Raise Our Children to Be Happy and Successful in Life“. Corley’s work has appeared on CNN, USA Today, The Huffington Post, SUCCESS Magazine, and many other media outlets and podcasts in the U.S. and 27 other countries. Tom is a frequent contributor to Business Insider and CNBC.