[We’re pleased to welcome authors Amanda J. Williamson of the University of Sheffield, Martina Battisti of the University of Portsmouth, Michael Leatherbee of Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, and J. Jeffrey Gish of the University of Oregon, Eugene. They recently published an article in Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice entitled “Rest, Zest, and My Innovative Best: Sleep and Mood as Drivers of Entrepreneurs’ Innovative Behavior,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they briefly write about the motivation and impact of their research, and speak about their research in a short video abstract.
What motivated you to pursue this research?
We noticed that sleep is commonly undervalued by early-stage entrepreneurs, and realized that we know very little about what impact poor sleep quality has on entrepreneurially-relevant outcomes.
While the quality of our sleep is broadly declining, entrepreneurs in particular are under pressure to be “on” constantly. Recent studies indicate that early stage entrepreneurs feel that they need to be contactable and to work long hours in order to perform. Adding insult to injury, we noticed that entrepreneurial camps are often designed in a manner that encourage poor sleep, and that our media often celebrate poorly rested entrepreneurs as dedicated heroes.
This worried us, as evidence indicates that poor sleep can be dangerous. The long-term effects of poor sleep are evident in terms of our personal health, and the short-term effects are noticeable for our cognitive functioning. We started to wonder whether poor sleep could therefore be harmful for start-up performance, and if so, whether we might find an entrepreneurially motivated reason for entrepreneurs to prioritize their sleep. As innovative behavior is at the heart of effectively creating a venture, we thought it would be a great place to start exploring this topic empirically.
Were there any specific external events—political, social, or economic—that influenced your decision to pursue this research?
We felt that the time was right for this research. While there is a growing interest in entrepreneurial well-being, entrepreneurial sleep has received limited attention to date. We hoped our research could help trigger an emerging conversation and provide empirical evidence on the important role that sleep plays for entrepreneurial wellbeing and entrepreneurship more generally.
What advice would you give to new scholars and incoming researchers in this particular field of study?
To date, only a handful of studies have explored sleep in the context of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial behavior, thus we have barely scratched the surface on what could be a very promising line of research in the field. We encourage scholars to explore the topic further. Some of the many questions that remain open include:
1. What role do naps have on entrepreneurs’ performance?
2. What influence do circadian rhythms have on the dynamics of entrepreneurial teams and daily fluctuations in entrepreneurial performance? When is it good or bad to have diversity in circadian rhythms within an entrepreneurial team?
3. Are there interventions that are particularly effective for improving entrepreneurs’ sleep?
4. Are there any entrepreneurial sleep impairment trends? For example, are particular entrepreneurial events and stages in the entrepreneurial process related to poor sleep? Is sleep impairment similar according to venture types or within teams? How does sleep compare between entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs?
5. How does sleep impairment impact upon other aspects of entrepreneurial performance? For example, on how entrepreneurial pitches are delivered and evaluated?
6. What are the effects of entrepreneurs’ sleep for the longer-term performance of the individual, team, and startup?
7. When does it pay to sacrifice sleep in entrepreneurship?
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