Many people have experienced bad sleep, which can lead to impulsive tendencies, hyperactivity, and shifting attention spans. These behaviors are similar to ADHD. A new study has found that this dynamic may be related to increased entrepreneurial behavior.
Jeff Gish, co-author of this paper and a professor of economics at the University of Central Florida, said that “we’re not advocating sleeping less to get ahead.” “We are pointing out that there seems to be an interesting connection between sleep and entrepreneurship. ADHD-like tendencies can be a positive thing, rather than a hinderance in spurring ventures. There is one potential drawback. Although sleep problems can be attractive to entrepreneurs, if they persist, it can leave them without the cognitive and/or emotional skills to be effective entrepreneurs in-practice.
This paper suggests that potential entrepreneurs might be motivated by sleep problems to pursue self-employment. However it does not assess the effectiveness of subsequent ventures.
Anecdotal evidence would seem to support the idea. Multiple media reports have stated that Bill Gates, Richard Branson and Walt Disney, as well Cisco Systems CEO John T. Chambers, actor Jim Carrey, and Hollywood personality Howie Madden all have ADHD. They are well-known impresarios who have made a significant impact on their industries.
The journal published the results of the study today. Theory and Practice of EntrepreneurshipResearch has shown that sleep deprivation can lead to lower productivity, lethargy, and a decrease in long-term success. However, it may also be a hindrance to longer-term success.
The findings may be in contrast to recent work advocating adequate sleep. However, the results could also “contribute towards the de-stigmatization” of people whose social or individual circumstances make healthy sleep impossible to reach. [contributing to]Greater acceptance by society and others of different sleep patterns.
Four separate studies were conducted by the authors to reach their conclusions. They connected sleep quality to ADHD-like tendencies, then to entrepreneurial intentions.
Sleep Deprivation, ADHD-like Tendencies
The first study involved 350 participants. Participants had to fill out surveys before the experiment. Participants were asked about their ADHD and sleep patterns in the last six months. Questions were asked to gauge ADHD-like tendencies.
To gauge their entrepreneurial intent, they were asked if they planned to start or acquire business in the next 5-10years.
The group was then divided into two groups and they completed additional surveys under two conditions. One group slept uninterrupted and was awakened the next morning to fill out the survey. It asked about their sleep quality, ADHD-like tendencies, and intention to start a business.
The second group completed a total 10 surveys, beginning at 10 p.m. one night and continuing every hour until 7 a.m. the next day. This was done to induce sleep deprivation.
The experimental evidence provided evidence of a causal link between ADHD-like tendencies, sleep problems, and insomnia. Brian Gunia (a coauthor and associate Professor at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School) said, “Our results suggest disrupted sleeping may help nudge people towards acting on entrepreneurial ideas rather than continuing to think about them.”
Sleep, ADHD-like Tendencies, Entrepreneurial Intentions: Studies 2-3
Surveys measuring entrepreneurial intentions and ADHD-like tendencies and sleep problems were completed by around 300 people. Finally, they were asked demographic questions. The results were similar.
Poor sleep quality was directly linked to heightened entrepreneurial intentions.
Extension for Practicing Entrepreneurs
The previous studies had been limited to general populations. However, the researchers wanted their predictions to be applicable to practicing entrepreneurs. So they surveyed 176 practicing entrepreneurs, drawn from a U.S. West Coast mailing list. On average, the participants were 43 years old and had owned at least two businesses. They also had been self-employed for at most seven years. The men comprised slightly more than half. Participants were asked to complete similar surveys about their sleep habits, ADHD behavior, and intent to start a business.
The results: Impermanent insomnia can trigger ADHD-like tendencies, which can even spur entrepreneurial intent among practicing entrepreneurs.
“We were surprised that insomnia so consistently influenced entrepreneurs’ intentions of people who know how difficult it is to start a business,” said Brian C. Gunia, associate professor at John Hopkins University’s Carey Business School and coauthor of the paper.
The paper concludes with the warning that sleep problems can have both negative and positive effects. They can be a motivator for people to become entrepreneurs. If they are not stopped, they can hinder entrepreneurial performance.