BHP CEO Andrew MacKenzie recently revealed that he needs at least 6.5 to 7 hours of sleep each night to remain at the top of his game at work.
His sleeping habits were revealed in an interview with the Qantas inflight magazine, in which he also said he has never been more productive in his career than now that he’s working less hours in the office.
“I’ve found that the more senior I’ve become, the more important it is that I work fewer hours,” he said.
“A rested Andrew can do more in four hours than a tired Andrew can do in eight.
While medical professionals usually recommend eight hours a night, MacKenzie is getting far more than the “sleepless elite” business people including Jack Dorsey, Donald Trump and Tom Ford, who sleep four or less hours each night.
With this in mind we reached out to some of the executives we know to find out how much sleep they get.
Here’s what they had to say.
Chris Noone, CEO of Collaborate Corporation: 7 hours
I never underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep; that’s why I’m pretty strict about ensuring I get a full seven hours a night.
With the right balance of food and exercise, I’m almost always out for the count by 11pm and up, feeling fresh by 6am.
I try not to use any tech, such as my phone to check my emails before I sleep; instead I’ll read a book for 20 minutes to relax my mind and switch off from the day.
Instead of hitting the gym at 5am, my morning exercise is cycling to work, which allows me time to have breakfast with the family and catch-up with any emails before getting to the office for 8am.
I try not to slack on this at the weekends and am usually up early ocean swimming or cycling. I do however appreciate a good sleep in from time to time.
Detch Singh co-CEO of Hypetap: 6-7 hours
On average I get between six to seven hours of sleep per night, typically between midnight and six in the morning. I come from a background in mergers and acquisitions where it wasn’t unheard of to work long hours and get three to four hours of sleep, so I’ve been conditioned to run on minimal sleep if required!
Unlike many people I know, I don’t have any self-imposed restrictions around using my phone before bed. Typically I just make sure that I’m not doing any work-related tasks or thinking about work for at least an hour before sleeping, so my mind has a chance to wind down from the day.
In the mornings I make sure I get out of bed as soon as possible, especially on those busy days when I have to leave the house as soon as possible for an early meeting. My strategy is to keep my alarm away from my bed so I physically have to get out of bed to turn it off, as I find that lying in bed for an extended period can make me lethargic (and much less sharp as a result).
Karen Lawson, CEO of Slingshot: 6-7 hours
Any one day could be an early start to fly to a different state, a breakfast meeting, seminar or speaking opportunity. I rarely have free evenings as it’s either occupied with events with our clients and accelerators or it’s giving back to the startup ecosystem. I learnt a while ago I can’t reach or help enough people by mentoring but by speaking I can make an impact to more than just a handful.
Mornings used to be very early for me with running but with a torn hamstring for the third time. [Now] I am trying to find new ways to be on the move as running was my mindfulness time in the day. Love them or hate them the OFO bike has become my friend, riding into work has been good fun with the odd scary moment.
On the rare occasion I get home before 9 or 10pm my relaxation is cooking. I love to cook from scratch every night. I will [also] work through the night to clear my emails. I can’t sleep with an overflowing inbox, so whatever it takes to get the job done. I am not a great sleeper so I would probably average about 6 or 7 hours. I break all the screen night time rules as it’s pretty much the last thing I look at till lights out.
Robbie Sampson, CEO of OrbitRemit.com: 5.5 hours
With around five and a half hours sleep under my belt every night, I have more than enough juice to focus on my key three priorities; OrbitRemit, my family, and my own wellbeing. Obviously, getting all these on the money takes some tinkering, and it’s not always going to be perfect, but the best way for me to be able to keep them all running smoothly is by keeping a good daily routine.
You’ll find me up with the bakers and rowers of the world between 4:30 and 5AM. My first step out of bed is toward the coffee machine, second toward the currency rates, and third toward the backlog of emails and messages that have accumulated overnight.
After churning through the morning admin from my home office, and touching base with the team in London, I ditch the work hat for an hour. At 6:30AM I’ll give the wife a kiss good morning and we get the kids ready for school. Having ditched the suit a long time ago, I’ll throw some shorts on, hop on my electric bike by 7:30AM and take the perilous journey from my place to the office.
Between keeping everything moving at OrbitRemit and fulfilling my family duties, I’m often on the phone to our overseas offices or various international partners until 11PM. By then I’m more than ready to hit the hay and recharge for another day.
Brent Bellm, CEO of BigCommerce: 7.5 hours
My body has its own clock. If I’m caught up on sleep, I don’t set an alarm and sleep in darkness until I wake up — it’s exactly 8 hours 11 mins. That’s what I need, but I rarely get it. I probably average 7h30m and wear down quickly when I go below 7 hours. In short, I shoot for 8 hourrs but generally fall a bit short of that.
Three things help me sleep my best: exercise every morning, eating healthy food during the day, and an empty inbox by bedtime. In terms of exercise, I’m a competitive cyclist with a workweek routine of an hour every morning and 5-7 hours on the weekend. In terms of eating, my sleep improved markedly when I switched to a lower-carb diet that emphasises low-glycemic fruits and veggies, healthy fats and meats. I love unhealthy food like everyone, but I only eat it when it’s great. My mom died of a heart attack at 52; I adopted this diet to get my cholesterol down, get better sleep, lose weight, and have fewer illnesses, which are some of the many nice byproducts. As for emails, I hate unresolved “to do’s”. I simply don’t go to bed with them. My inbox always gets reduced down to
Ben Handler, CEO and co-founder of Cohen Handler: 7 hours
After getting some inspirational direction from Ariana Huffington’s book ‘The Sleep Revolution’ I get at least 7 hours of sleep per night. She preaches the importance of sleep to our health and productivity; even getting 30 minutes less is impactful. On that note, I am in bed by 9:00-9:30pm every night, to be up and ready for yoga at 5:00am. Before I jump into bed, I typically have a bath filled with epsom salts and magnesium, and a shot of sesame oil to swish around my mouth. Oil rinsing is usually done on an empty stomach, which means it’s the first and last thing on the agenda everyday. The purpose of this is to draw out the toxins, which improves overall health.
In the morning, after an early start at yoga, straight home and get dressed and ready for the day. You can usually find me at the office by 7:15am, with a Bulletproof Coffee in hand — the coffee is replaced with some ancient mayan super seed which is nutritious and has the same effect as a caffeine hit.
It’s not your usual breakfast option, but two tablespoons of ghee straight out of the jar, a glass of spirulina with water and a glass of camu water, it keeps me full and content, I am intermittent fasting and only eat between the hours of 12pm-7pm. The mayan seeds and kama were recommended to me by someone in California — I’m waiting for it to take off in Australia.
Taryn Williams, CEO and founder theright.fit: 6.5 hours
I get around 6.5 hours sleep a night. I generally finish work at around 8pm, and get into bed around 10.30pm. In recent months I made a commitment to reading every day so I try to read for about 20-30min to unwind and think about something other than work! I have a rule of no technology in the bedroom, so no mobile phones or TV, and I have an old school analogue alarm clock to wake me up. Generally my alarm is set for 5.40am on the days I go to the gym, and 6am for the days I don’t train. I’m usually in the office by 7.30 am ready for another day.
Mick Spencer, founder and CEO of ONTHEGO: 5-6 hours
On average, I sleep five to six hours a night. This is usually a very high quality sleep. Typically at night when I am home in Canberra, I ensure my next day is fully prepared and organised in advance. I wake up between 4-4:30am and go to the gym at 5:15am every day, so my clothes are ironed, my bags are packed, and my ‘Get Shit Done’ 1 pager is ready the night before, so I can go to bed relaxed.
I read every night before bed and spend time with my fiancé. I do not look at my phone within 30 minutes of going to sleep and charge it outside of the bedroom. For five minutes first thing in the morning I usually visualise and think about the day ahead, kiss my fiancé, check all my devices and catch up on emails. I then check the news, refresh my to do list with anything urgent, grab a coffee, and by 7am I am good to go!
Greg Bader, CEO of Rent.com.au: 6-7 hours
Probably not enough, but I typically get around 6-7 hours. I’m in the middle of house renovations at the moment — lots of mess and living out of one room. The only upside I can see so far is that the lack of a kitchen means we are down the local pub for dinner most nights. After that, maybe catch-up on some News/Netflix and in bed by around 11-12.
The getting up is the tough one, for reasons known only to the slight majority of Western Australians that voted down daylight savings again, we have sunrise at 5am – I am not talking your soft hues here, I am talking proper “burn your retina” bright sunlight, so that means I am up early (or maybe it’s really an age thing). I would love to say this is when I commence my extensive exercise program but that would be lying, in the office by 7am, which lets me catch-up on things before most of the team arrives.
Philippe Odouard, CEO of Xtek: 7-8 hours
I get seven-to-eight hours sleep each night and expect my employees to do the same. We need that to be refreshed and alert at work. Much less than seven hours and you run the risk of losing productivity.
The only time that I break the seven-to-eight hour rule is when I’m travelling for work. That’s unavoidable.
Before bed I usually check my emails from Europe. When I wake up I’ll check emails from the US. It’s a skill to not let work email before and after bed disturb your sleep. Some people are good at it, the rest should avoid it.
Alexandra Tselios, CEO and founder The Big Smoke: 5.5 hours
I used to be a terrible sleeper, averaging 4 hours a night and struggling to fall asleep. However I have taught myself to switch off at night and now average around 5.5 hours which has been great.
I am a real morning person, so I prefer to be up early, around 4.30am and this allows me to get ahead and start planning my day. When I wake up I generally map out the day and my schedule. I try to do all the stuff one is told to do to stay balanced, like work out or meditate, but to be fair I do it maybe once a week. I am usually just ready to work, responding to emails that came through the night, checking up on the 24-news cycle and preparing for meetings. Before bed though, I really take the time to unwind and try not to take my phone into my bedroom. I try to read a book a week, so this is my chance to fit that in!
Karl Redenbach, CEO of LiveTiles: 7.5 hours
Any less than 6 hours and I just don’t function at the level that I want to. So ideally I like to get 7.5 hours a night and encourage all my staff to do the same. But we’re an international software company so there are flights and phone calls to different time zones at times that aren’t conducive to a long night’s sleep. Neither are my four kids — under the age of 10 — in a small apartment in New York City!
When you employ a lot of people who have young families, as we do, you quickly realise what they value is space from work to focus on their busy lives. If you give your company clear direction and individuals have confidence in what they’re doing and are empowered to speak up, it means they don’t go home worrying about work. That makes a good night’s sleep easier.
Geoff Reilly, CEO of Sharequity: 8 hours
Over in WA, we’ve got to get an earlier start than people on the east-coast if we want to be ready for the ASX open. I typically like to get eight hours so that means I’m usually going to be around 9.30pm-10pm and getting up at 5.45am.
The flip side of that is we’re much more flexible in the afternoon that east coast businesses when it comes to letting our employees go early. That’s probably something Perth businesses are better at in general that perhaps businesses in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne
Before bed, I’m generally relaxing – watching TV, reading the paper. Sometimes I’ll email a bit, but nothing too focussed on work. You’re always liable to getting fixated on something complex or worrying and spending the night wide awake, wondering.
James McKinnon, CEO and co-founder of Sittr: 5 hours
On average, I get about five hours of sleep per night. I’ve never really needed more than that and when I do have the occasional sleep-in, I often feel sluggish and unmotivated for the entire day so I try to avoid it, even on weekends.
As an entrepreneur, angel investor and father of 3 young children, I need to pack as much into every waking moment as possible.
This includes spending time with the kids so I’m usually up at 6am to get an hour or so of quiet time before everyone else gets up. In the afternoons I will take some time out to collect the kids from school and go to afterschool activities. After spending some time with my wife to talk about non-work stuff (we are co-founders of Sittr so get to work together most of the day) I’ll usually retreat to the home office to get some more done before retiring for the day somewhere between 12 and 1am.
Cam Northway, CEO and founder Sweet&Chilli: 8 hours
Working in the hospitality industry for over 15 years, with long days and late nights, I’ve definitely grown into a night owl. I do think sleep is important and I aim for 8 hours sleep a day otherwise I don’t feel too functional throughout the day.
Normally I’ll go to bed at 12.30am and wake around 8.30am and generally I have no problem getting a deep sleep.
Working to that timeframe means that I get a full day working with my team in Australia while splitting a half a day either side with my LA and London offices.
Before bed I usually try to do a bit of reading and catch up with the latest world news, which allows me to switch off from work and thinking about what I need to do tomorrow.
I recently co-launched a restaurant in Sydney which has seen me give up my usual schedule of training every morning. Something had to give while trying to run multiple businesses across different countries. We’re about five months in now and with Summer here I am committed to getting back into my old routine as it clears my head and sets me up with a positive outlook for the day.
Christie Whitehill, CEO and founder Tech Ready Women: 6-8 hours
I have a one year old, Zac, who goes through patches of teething and waking up in the night, so on a good night I typically get 6-8 hours sleep, but on a bad night 4 or 5 hours broken sleep!
Thankfully the 4-5 hour nights aren’t so frequent, however, I’ve learnt to embrace this time in our lives when you do get disrupted sleep. It just makes the next work day a little tougher to get through!
Before bed routine is nothing special. Most nights I do a couple of hours work after Zac goes down to sleep. Then I spend time with my husband, listen to an audio book, then go to sleep around 10.30-11pm.
I usually wake up around 7am to my human alarm clock. Thankfully Zac likes to not wake so early. I try to get out for a walk, feed Zac, have my own breakfast, and get into the office around 9.15am. Ideally I’d love to fit more ‘me’ time into my routine, but right now I’m loving the challenge of motherhood and a building Tech Ready Women at the same time.
Sam Cawthorn, CEO of Speakers Institute: 4-6 hours
In most cases I will sleep for about 4-6 hours each night. I’m more of a morning person and it’s when I’m most productive. The first thing I do when I wake up is stretch, breathe and also do meditation. How I meditate is through prayer and this prayer will consist mainly through being grateful.
I then look on my phone at the stocks as well as my bank account balances and social media. [Then I] look at the news, have a shower, put on my suit, have breakfast, say hello to my kids then leave home around 7am.
I… return home at around 7pm to have a meal with my family, put my kids to bed and then I will work for the next 2-3 hours; catching up with a partner or mentor or on emails or phone calls. I… go to bed at midnight only to wake up at anywhere between 4-5am.
Ashik Ahmed CEO of Deputy: 6 hours
Nothing great happens without sacrifice. For me it’s building a global company. Sadly ‘sleep’ has been one of those ‘sacrifices’. Adding two children on top of this, and the sacrifice is even greater. But may I say, it’s also truly rewarding!
Deputy has a global presence across USA, UK and Australia. Living in Sydney means quite often I am up at 5:30am for a gotomeeting/Facetime with our team in Atlanta. My natural body clock wakes me up at 5am, so getting up at this time isn’t a problem for me.
At the other end, while I try to get to bed by midnight most nights, if something pressing needs my attention in another time zone’s business hours I will always be around to jump on a call at 3am. The only other thing that keeps me up at night is Formula 1.
I want to start fresh every day. So, leaving things unanswered overnight isn’t something that will make me sleep well. I will either answer or I will put it to ‘snooze’. One productivity hack I recommend to everyone is the ‘Snooze feature’ of Inbox by Google. If you don’t have time to respond, you can bring back that email at a chosen date in future. This has been one of the biggest improvements in how I communicate with people. Slack also has a snooze feature that SaaS execs can hugely benefit from.
I don’t believe in sleep debt. Having an eight hour sleep on the weekend is all I need to catch up on any ‘weekend debt’. I actually get a headache if I sleep more than 6 hours.
Someone once told me that if you sleep for 8 hours a day, you end up wasting a third of your life. Although I’m sure Ariana Huffington will disagree with me…
Keisha Dessaix, CEO of LE BUNS: 7-8 hours
5am – Alarm goes off, I’m not going to lie, every day it’s a constant battle between more sleep and getting off my butt and getting to my morning F45 session. Most of the time I make it, but some days, sleep wins out!
6am – Whip up a breakfast, along with replying to any overnight emails/customer requests. Ill try and take our dog for a walk if she is willing!
7am – Get ready for the day ahead. I’m usually writing a list of jobs that need to get done, starting with the most important
8am – Grab my morning coffee at my local and I’m off to work on the train, I usually do all my social media posting on the way to the office to save some time.
At night, I’m definitely a bit of an early bird. Once I’m home from work I’ll make an early dinner with my partner, de-brief about the day (hopefully over a glass of red) and head to bed around 9pm. I try not to bring too much work home, but some days its unavoidable and I’ll have some admin tasks to wrap up before bed. I’m always in bed by 10pm – I’m becoming more of a grandma the older I get!
I need 7-8 hours of sleep to function properly during the day, and if I have a late night I find it really hard to keep to my morning routine, and it affects my mood. On the weekends I definitely treat myself to a sleep in and a late brunch somewhere – there is nothing better than rolling around in bed on a day off!
Kai Neville, CEO and co-founder of EPOKHE: 8 hours
My routine alternates from being on the road filming to locked down in the studio. Studio time is really hyper-focused so I can work the best that I can. And when I clock off, I’m home and have left my work where it should be. For those days I try to get 8 hours sleep, its seems to work for me. I hear some business types have worked towards only 4 hours sleep. I’d be an unproductive mess. I use a sleep app and set the wakeup 8 hours from when I hit the pillow. In bed by 10pm up at 6, working most of the day. If I’m on a film deadline those 8 hours can be thrown out the window.
Sam Leetham, CEO of BEAR: 6-7 hours
My mum always said the sleep you can get before midnight is worth double and I firmly believe in this philosophy. I aim to get to bed at 11pm each night, although we’re finding this is increasingly difficult with the BEAR business now active in Australia, US and UK, there’s always a time-zone in focus.
We’re currently in Byron Bay so we’re spending our evenings out for dinner with our friends who live here. After we get home, I usually spend an hour or two finalizing any key emails or phone calls in our various markets and immediately before bed, I always have a glass of water and rub some eucalyptus balm on the back of my neck.
As we travel so much, my mornings are a ritual which I like to hold onto, regardless of where we are in the world. I’m usually up at 6am just as the sun starts to break through the dawn. I’ll have a glass of room temperature water with natural lemon squeezed through it along with our BEAR Explore Essential Daily Vitamin.
We’ll then head outside for a walk – at the moment, it’s along Watego’s Beach to the Byron Bay Lighthouse and then back to Little Wategos for a swim in the ocean. I’ll then grab a takeaway coffee, make breakfast and be at my laptop around 8am to connect on the key strategic topics for the BEAR business with our key retail partners, team members and suppliers.