How Much Sleep Do Investment Bankers Get

Ever wonder how much sleep Investment Bankers get on a daily basis, how much this varies and how they manage to plough through in spite of this?

While working in Investment Banking, the average bedtime on weekdays for me was 1:29 AM, with an average sleep duration of 5 hours and 56 minutes. On weekends, the average bedtime was 12:02 AM, with an average sleep duration of 8 hours and 29 minutes. However, behind these figures are large fluctuations day by day. Strategies Investment Bankers use to stay awake with such little sleep include strategic coffee breaks, taking a walk outside, washing eyes out with cold water and taking a quick power nap.

Read on to see a graph showing how sleep time and duration varied for me over a 288 day period and 5 strategies Investment Bankers use to stay awake when exhaustion hits.

How much sleep do Investment Bankers get

Investment bankers do get some sleep, though it varies a lot, which is the unhealthy fact behind any average figure, since this goes against the circadian rhythm our bodies have evolved to run on.

How much sleep do first year analysts get? Using real data that I tracked while in Investment Banking:

I have provided a more granular trend based on hours I tracked while working in Investment Banking, to capture the variation on a day by day and week by week basis.

While working as an Investment Banking analyst, I got into the habit of tracking my time – partly to avoid procrastinating, partly for sanity since the tracker gave me a sense of time control.

In the summary graph below, I’ve split the ‘weekday’ and ‘weekend’ parts of the data since the weekend consisted of catching up on sleep deprived weekdays, and therefore is skewed. I’ve also excluded bank holidays and annual leave to avoid skewing the data further.

Number of days analysed = 288

Average bedtimes:

Average bedtimes:

  • The weekday average sleep duration was 5:56 hours
  • The weekend average sleep duration was 8:29 hours

From the experience of others – the Goldman Sachs survey:

In 2020 and 2021, the lives of many Investment Banking analysts got worse due to the intensities of remote working, which meant not even having a commute to break up the day, or social interaction with colleagues to maintain sanity. It was during this period that a few analysts from Goldman Sachs prepared a presentation titled the “Working Conditions Survey”, highlighting that something needed to change for these analysts. It sent a few shockwaves through the industry, though rather than improved working conditions, the biggest change was higher analyst pay, also supported by the business cycle peaking.

On the PowerPoint, they claimed that analysts went to sleep at 3am on average and got 5 hours of sleep per night (survey of 13 first-year analysts).

A longer commute reduces time for sleep:

The amount of sleep a first-year analyst gets depends on how close they live to the office – an extra 20 mins of travelling each way will equate to 40 mins of less sleep. I suffered from this during the first few months, where I lived an hour away. Moving closer to the office by renting during the week and going home at weekends was the best decision I made in terms of sleep gained.

Interns are technically required to take on less work but usually follow suit with first year analyst hours to impress for sake of converting to a full-time role.

How Investment Bankers stay awake – 5 short-term tactics

How do Investment Bankers stay awake if they get such little sleep? As well as time management and trying to catch-up on sleep during downtime, there are some short-term strategies that can help with fighting the urge to sleep.

[1] Coffee during meetings.

The most difficult thing about every fibre in your body telling you to sleep is being in a client meeting and trying not to fall asleep. You are limited to coffee or if it’s a meeting with lower stakes, it might be acceptable to go to the toilet and rinse your face with cold water. A good strategy is to use coffee sparingly, only when you absolutely need it to ensure the caffeine has its desired effect.

[2] Walking outside for fresh air.

Getting some fresh air can work wonders at waking you up when that moment of tiredness hits you, especially if it’s light outside and if there is a park nearby with trees and grass. In ‘Deep Work’, Cal Newport talks about a study where exposure to nature was found to significantly increase focus and productivity for a group of students (Chapter ‘Rule #1: Work Deeply’ on how downtime helps recharge the energy needed to work deeply). For a largely unnatural office environment, forcing yourself to look up into a tree or two as you pass by on your quick walk can work wonders for resetting the mind. When especially stressed, pivoting your attention to 5 things you can see, 5 things you can feel and 5 things you can hear can also help instead of mulling over the stresses of the day.

In Ali Abdaal’s book ‘Feel Good Productivity’, he highlights how powerful even a view of nature can have on us, as uncovered in a study on patients recovering from surgery in Pennsylvania. The power of nature can also be applied to gruelling work hours. For example, the Investment Banking boutique I worked at had two floors and I always remember feeling more at ease on one of the floors over the other, never quite realising why. Perhaps it had something to do with the people that would sit on the one I felt more stressed at, but one thing I’m certain helped was the fact the floor I preferred was filled with nature wallpapers e.g. forest trees, mountains in the Alps and even a beach. I’ve found that even changing your desktop background to something filled with nature can have a stress-relieving effect on the mind, especially given the amount of time an analyst spends in front of a screen each day.

[3] Washing your eyes out with cold water.

A killer strategy for keeping you awake just before an important, long meeting where your eyes are starting to feel heavy is washing your eyes out with cold water.

[4] Power naps late at night

When still in the office late at night, it can be helpful to find a meeting room no one is using and can’t see through (if your office has these) and taking a 10-minute nap. short naps are not sufficient to replace sleep but can be an essential break to help you burn some more midnight oil when the tank is empty.

[5] Listening to music

When work is feeling long and it’s only 3pm, given you expect to leave at 2am, listening to a playlist you enjoy or movie soundtracks if you need to focus more intensely, can make the work more bearable.

The negative spiral – dangers of less sleep

As a final note, it’s easy to feel awe at how little sleep Investment Bankers get and the hours they work, but once in the industry full time, your perspective quickly changes. Lack of sleep is not something to be proud of – at the beginning it’s inevitable because of the extra time it takes to complete work to a certain standard, but you realise that lack of sleep takes it’s toll on the quality of your work, which leads to loss of trust from seniors and ultimately a negative spiral.

The negative spiral:

  • You stay longer to get your tasks done and get less sleep.
  • You come in the next day more tired with fewer reserves to burn more midnight oil, but your workload has only increased, so you work even later.
  • Now you’re even more tired and you start handing in work with mistakes, especially because you don’t have the attention to detail or analysis / presentation skills of more seasoned analysts.
  • Then your MD loses trust in you and so you must work even harder to make sure you don’t have any mistakes before handing in your next piece of work but at this point you aren’t even awake enough to properly capture the MD’s comments.

This is an example of how the negative spiral can evolve and the worst part is that the exhaustion is difficult to recover from unless you take a 5-day holiday, since there is never enough time in the weekend to properly catch-up on sleep.

Recent Posts