In a recent episode of his podcast Unconfuse Me with Bill Gates, the former Microsoft CEO discussed his poor sleeping habits early in his career—and why he regrets them.
- Early in Microsoft’s history, Gates would take pride in being one of the last employees to leave for the day.
- Gates says that he and his employees would compete to see who could operate on the least amount of sleep per night.
- He says the company atmosphere considered heavy sleeping “lazy” and “unnecessary” and discouraged it, with employees ranking each other’s sleeping habits.
- Gates and actor Seth Rogen also discussed their mutual experiences with caring for parents with Alzheimer’s disease.
Why It’s Important
Workplace culture has changed a great deal in the past 20 years. Tech companies used to operate under high-performance cultures, with techies working late into the night to deliver on their projects under tight deadlines. In recent years, this culture has changed. The working world has become more critical of businesses that pressure employees to work in long-term crunch sessions to get products out the door.
Gates notes that he regrets many of the decisions he made early in his leadership at Microsoft. He currently regards these work habits as extreme, regrets them, and now competes to get the best sleep. He also noted he regrets not enjoying time with his family and taking vacations with his children.
“Now what we know is that to maintain good brain health, getting good sleep—even back to your teen years—is super important. It’s one of the most predictive measures of any dementia, including Alzheimer’s,” says Gates.
“When I was young, the convention was ‘You’ll sleep when you’re dead, sleep isn’t that important, you don’t need sleep.’ And now already we know that’s completely oppositional to the truth, and if anything, it’s maybe the single most important thing you can do to keep your brain healthy,” says Seth Rogan.