Sleep Your Way to a Better Portfolio

Joel Litman

No matter where you are or what you're doing, you still need to get about eight hours of sleep...

I recently spent a few days in Norway – a few long days.

The geography of a place often shapes the behaviors of its people. Norway is no exception. As the name implies, the country is far north. During the longest days of summer, it's still chilly.

(I underestimated that... and realized my mistake when I arrived at the Oslo airport. Everyone was wearing coats except me.)

Now, it may be cold, but it isn't dark. This time of year, the sun technically falls behind the horizon sometime around 10:30 p.m. But it doesn't get dark. It's like a sunset that never ends... until it pops right back up at sunrise.

At dinner, I commented on this amazing sunset phenomenon to a waitress. She replied, "Imagine what it's like in the wintertime. It's so dark and depressing. We want to leave."

I'm not sure I want to experience that. Hearing about it was enough. I have to believe that 20-plus hours of darkness takes its toll. Maybe that's what led to the depressing impressionism behind Norwegian artist Edvard Munch's famous painting, "The Scream."

All that said, the Norwegian people were quite welcoming to my family. And their food was fantastic... especially the fish.

But I found sleep difficult to come by, thanks to the never-ending sunlight. I just wanted to be awake all the time. I felt like I had overslept, even when I hadn't.

When it's daylight all the time, your sleep cues don't work right.

Because I would wake up so early, I'd start to feel tired around 2 p.m. Afternoon tiredness just isn't normal for me. I wasn't getting enough sleep.

I can't tell you how many management consultants and investment bankers I've met who claim to run on just four to five hours of sleep...

Wall Street pros wear their exhaustion like a badge of honor. They're proud of their 18-hour workdays.

The truth is, you can get by on four to five hours of sleep. Some people can handle it for extended periods of time. But that doesn't mean you're functioning at optimal capacity... Not even close.

When you don't get enough sleep – about eight hours per night for most adults – you're simply not at your best. And the effect is immediate. Your body will suffer the next day.

Back in my younger days, I slept less than six hours many nights. At the time, I thought I could handle it.

Looking back, I realize I was definitely not at my best. At six hours of sleep or less, your cognitive strength and emotional control drop significantly. I worked a lot of hours. But they were low-quality hours.

Getting enough sleep should be a key component of your investing strategy...

Many of the greatest investors – like Warren Buffett, Charlie Munger, and Seth Klarman – talk about the importance of controlling your emotions when investing. When people let their feelings get the better of them, they become bad investors.

When you're scared, you might panic-sell and miss great opportunities. The media is quite good at fearmongering. And if you're not in control of your emotions, it's easy to react inappropriately to tough markets... like the one we're in right now.

Emotional temperance is one of the most important aspects of successful investing. And one of the easiest ways to lose control is by not getting enough sleep.

Plus, you miss things when you're tired. You might make riskier investments or be less thorough in your research.

I regularly remind our employees – and myself – to prioritize sleep...

Now, I'm reminding you.

You may need to work long hours sometimes. But even when times get crazy, aim for eight hours of sleep... even if that means rearranging your schedule a bit.

Try cutting out caffeine at least six hours before bed (12 is even better). Turn off electronics for the last 60 minutes of every day.

It might not seem like much. But a little more sleep can make a big difference for your investments – and your quality of life.

As always, I wish you love, joy, and peace,

June 24, 2022