Sleep Habits of Entrepreneurs: Sofya Polyakov, Noun Project – Somn
Header photo of Sofya Polyakov

Sleep Habits of Entrepreneurs: Sofya Polyakov, Noun Project

In SomnLabs’ Sleep Habits of Entrepreneurs series, we talk with leading founders and creators to explore the role of sleep in innovation. Recently, we spoke with Sofya Polyakov.

Sofya is the CEO & Co-Founder of Noun Project (the biggest and most extensive collection of the world’s visual language built by a global community of designers), and COO & Co-Founder of Lingo (a modern digital asset manager for brands and products). She has 8 years of experience as a tech entrepreneur, is active in the LA tech community, an advisor to early-stage startups, and serves as President of the LA Associates Board for Teach for America.

The Basics

In SomnLabs’ Sleep Habits of Entrepreneur series, we talk with leading founders and creators to explore the role of sleep in innovation. Recently, we spoke with Sofya Polyakov.

Name: Sofya Polyakov
Age: 37
Avg. Caffeinated Drinks Per Day: 2 (one in the morning, one after lunch)
Avg. Naps Per Week: 1
Avg. Hours of Sleep Each Night: 7

Sofya’s Sleep Profile

Do you feel like you’ve figured out your sleep?

Yes, but, these days I’m not getting the kind of sleep that’s best for me. My six month old wakes up at night and recently my three year old started getting up at 5:00 am. So, my sleep is interrupted and fluctuates depending on when the kids are asleep or awake.

How do you define “good sleep”?

I’m a firm believer in getting eight hours of sleep. It really helps me be creative and productive. I would love to go to bed at 10:00pm and not wake up until 6:00am without being interrupted.

What happens in your work and life when you don’t get quality sleep?

It depends on how bad of a night it was and how many nights in a row I haven’t slept well. If I’ve had a couple nights with little sleep, I get a huge migraine. It’s almost like feeling hungover.

I read an interesting article about scientists who saw that blood vessels in our brain shrink when we’re asleep and flush out waste that builds up. And, this is how I think of sleep – it’s this time for the brain to process and clear things out. So, one of the ways I deal with bad sleep is to drink a bunch of water the next day. Having an extra coffee helps to an extent. But for me, it’s more about getting hydrated and helping my brain refresh.

How do you start your day?

The morning is all about the kids. My husband, Edward, and I will get them ready for the day and take our toddler to preschool. I’ll always make time to have a healthy breakfast, though. My go-to breakfast is steel cut oatmeal with berries and nuts, and a glass of room temperature water.

Do you have any evening rituals?

Yes, my nightly ritual is taking a shower. I’ve been doing this for years and it really helps me relax. It’s my “me time”.

What helps you sleep?

For the last ten years I’ve been sleeping with sound in the background – usually from a fan or sound machine. We’re right in the middle of Los Angeles, so there’s noise outside from traffic and sometimes the neighbors.

Beyond sound, I need the bedroom to be at a cool temperature (we usually set the room to 68 degrees) and have a heavy blanket – not in terms of heat but just the feel of it. We also have a king size bed so there’s plenty of room.

What about your work makes it harder for you to sleep?

Those moments when my mind is racing because I’m really excited or stressed about something. Or my thoughts are jumping from one thing to another. I call it Monkey Mind. And now, I use meditation to tame it. I got into meditation through a weekly podcast made by the Hammer Museum and UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center. It helps me deal with all the stress and anxiety.

Now, when I find my mind racing, I make a conscious effort to do a body scan meditation. Usually by the time I get to my knees, I’m calm.

Do you feel like you balance sleep and work?

In the early days, when we were first starting the company, it was a lot harder to create this balance. Now that The Noun Project has grown and is more stable, it’s become easier to find time to practice more self-care.

What sleep advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?

Put away your phone at night. It’s easy to use this technology too much, especially for work. Some people will be on their phone, checking in on work, right before bed and when they wake up in the morning (and if then wake up at night, they’ll look then, too). This just brings unnecessary stress.

Learn more about The Noun Project at

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