ADHD-like behavior caused by lack of sleep may be beneficial for entrepreneurial activity.
For some people, bad sleep can result in feelings of hyperactivity the following day, along with impulsive behavior and shifting attention spans. These behaviours all resemble those of ADHD.
Now a new study suggests this could lend itself to entrepreneurial behavior.
“We found that people who had trouble sleeping were higher in ADHD-like tendencies. And that led to a stronger attraction to the notion of becoming an entrepreneur. For practicing entrepreneurs, one of the studies in the paper, we found similar effects that indicated a greater desire to start an additional business. The randomized controlled trials we conducted, manipulating sleep in randomly-selected participants, suggest that sleep is indeed the cause of the heightened ADHD-like tendencies and increased entrepreneurial intentions,” Jeff Gish, co-author of the study and a professor of business at the University of Central Florida told Theravive.
The research was inspired by another paper written by Gish’s co-author Brian Gunia titled The Sleep Trap.
“In this theoretical paper, he suggests that sleep problems might nudge people toward entrepreneurial careers by increasing ADHD-like tendencies. The trap is that these same tendencies may in-turn harm entrepreneurial pursuits after self-employment begins. This is a real-world test of the first part of the sleep trap, where we find support that sleep problems do indeed nudge individuals toward self-employment,” Gish said.
Anecdotally, there are a number of public figures that may support the findings of the study. There have been reports Bill Gates, Richard Branson and Walt Disney all have ADHD, and all are known for their entrepreneurial efforts in their fields.
In undertaking their study, the research conducted four experiments. In one of the experiments, 350 participants were asked to fill out surveys about their sleep and ADHD tendencies in the previous six months. To determine their level of entrepreneurial intention, they were also asked if they intended to start a business in the next five to ten years.
The participants were then split into two groups. One group had an uninterrupted night of sleep and awoke the next morning to fill out a new survey which asked questions about ADHD tendencies, sleep quality and intent to start a business.
The second group were asked to fill out 10 surveys beginning at 10pm and then every hour until 7am the next day. This was designed to cause sleep deprivation.
The results suggested a causal relationship between lack of sleep and ADHD like behaviours.
In another experiment, the researchers had practicing entrepreneurs fill out surveys about their sleep, ADHD like behavior and their intentions surrounding starting more businesses. The findings of that experiment supported the idea that sleep issues could influence entrepreneurial intention.
Gish argues there are many ways sleep could aid in entrepreneurship.
“There are a lot of ways in which sleep can influence entrepreneurship. More sleep can inspire greater creativity, and more innovative behavior. Sleep also influences business idea generation/evaluation, and can help stave off exhaustion. Our paper adds to this growing body of research that suggests the important implications of sleep for people considering entrepreneurial careers,” he told Theravive.
ADHD like behaviors in particular, he says, could be useful in the field of entrepreneurship.
“ADHD-like tendencies are sometimes associated with being open to new ideas, trying new things, or viewing things in a new light. People who have already considered an entrepreneurial career might be nudged toward entrepreneurship when experiencing sleep problems and greater ADHD-like tendencies.”
Although the research suggests lack of sleep could encourage people towards entrepreneurship, it doesn’t determine the efficacy of the subsequent ventures undertaken. Gish says that although poor sleep may have some benefits in causing behaviors useful for entrepreneurship, there could be a downside.
He notes if sleep problems persist an individual may find they lack the emotional and cognitive competence necessary to be an effective entrepreneur.
Gish says more research is needed to determine what happens next for those spurred on by poor sleep.
“We found an interesting causal link, but more research is needed to find out the consequences of this relationship,” he said.
“I think it would be cool to test the next leg of the sleep trap. If sleep problems encourage the leap into entrepreneurship, do these same sleep problems negatively affect entrepreneurial pursuits after launch?”
Elizabeth Pratt is a medical journalist and producer. Her work has appeared on Healthline, The Huffington Post, Fox News, The Australian Broadcasting Corporation, The Sydney Morning Herald, News.com.au, Escape, The Cusp and Skyscanner. You can read more of her articles here. Or learn more about Elizabeth and contact her via her LinkedIn and Twitter profiles.