Sleep is More Important than Food

Lately we’ve been focussing on the little things that differentiate amateurs and experts and offered evidence that experts are made and not born.

Next on the list is sleep.

Tony Schwartz, author of Be Excellent at Anything, writes for the HBR blog:

Great performers are an exception. Typically, they sleep significantly more than the rest of us. In Anders Ericcson’s famous study of violinists, the top performers slept an average of 8 hours out of every 24, including a 20 to 30 minute midafternoon nap some 2 hours a day more than the average American.

The top violinists also reported that except for practice itself, sleep was second most important factor in improving as violinists.

As I began to gather research about sleep, I felt increasingly compelled to give it higher priority in my own life. Today, I go to great lengths to assure that I get at least 8 hours every night, and ideally between 8 ½ and 9, even when I’m traveling.

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Still curious? Read more on becoming an expert: Pros tend to work through tedious exercises or focus on difficult parts of pieces; The best performers observe themselves closely; and Exceptional memorizers: made, not born. And when you do become an expert at something don’t make any predictions.