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Thursday April 24th 2014

What killed SAP CEO Ranjan Das and lessons for corporate India

SAP India CEO Ranjan Das Dies After Gym Workout       

     Ranjan Das, CEO and MD of SAP Indian subcontinent  died after a massive cardiac arrest in Mumbai on Wednesday.         

    One of the youngest CEOs, he was 42.

What killed Ranjan Das and Lessons for Corporate India           
                                                                                                                            
                                                                           
A month ago, many of us heard about the sad demise of Ranjan Das from  Bandra, Mumbai. Ranjan, just 42 years of age, was the CEO of SAP-Indian    Subcontinent, the youngest CEO of an MNC in India. He was very active in  sports, was a fitness freak and a marathon runner. It was common to see    him run on Bandra’s Carter Road. Just after Diwali, on 21st Oct, he    returned home from his gym after a workout, collapsed with a massive heart attack and died. He is survived by his wife and two very young kids.      
                                                                           
It was certainly a wake-up call for corporate India. However, it was even  more disastrous for runners amongst us. Since Ranjan was an avid    marathoner ( in Feb 09, he ran Chennai Marathon at the same time some of  us were running Pondicherry Marathon 180 km away ), the question came as  to why an exceptionally active, athletic person succumb to heart attack at 42 years of age.                                                          
                                                                                                                             
                                                                           
Was it the stress?                                                        
                                                   
                                                                           
A couple of you called me asking about the reasons. While Ranjan had   mentioned that he faced a lot of stress, that is a common element in most  of our lives. We used to think that by being fit, one can conquer the bad  effects of stress. So I doubted if the cause was stress.                  
                                       
                                                                           
The Real Reason                                                            
                                                                 
                                                                           
However, everyone missed out a small line in the reports that Ranjan used  to make do with 4-5 hours of sleep. This is an earlier interview of Ranjan on NDTV in the program ‘Boss’ Day Out’: Boss’ Day Out: Ranjan Das of SAP  India.                                                                    
                                                                           
                                                                   
Here he himself admits that he would love to get more sleep (and that he  was not proud of his ability to manage without sleep, contrary to what    others extolled).                                                        
                                                                           
The Evidence                                                              
                                                       
                                                                           
Last week, I was working with a well-known cardiologist on the subject of  ‘Heart Disease caused by Lack of Sleep’. While I cannot share the video    nor the slides because of confidentiality reasons, I have distilled the    key points below in the hope it will save some of our lives.              
                                                                         
                                                                           
Some Excerpts:                                                            
                                                                       
· Short sleep duration ( <5 or 5-6 hours ) increased risk for high BP by  350% to 500% compared to those who slept longer than 6 hours per night.    Paper published in 2009. As you know, high BP kills.                      
                                                                           
                                                                       
                                                                           
· Young people ( 25-49 years of age ) are twice as likely to get high BP  if they sleep less. Paper published in 2006.                              
                                                                        
                                                                           
                                                                         
· Individuals who slept less than 5 hours a night had a 3-fold increased  risk of heart attacks. Paper published in 1999.                            
                                                                           
                                                                           
                                                                           
· Complete and partial lack of sleep increased the blood concentrations of High sensitivity C-Reactive Protein (hs-cRP), the strongest predictor of  heart attacks. Even after getting adequate sleep later, the levels stayed  high!!                                                                    
                                                                           
                                                                           
                                                                           
· Just one night of sleep loss increases very toxic substances in body    such as Interleukin-6 (IL-6), Tumour Necrosis Factor-Alpha (TNF-alpha) and C-reactive protein (cRP). They increase risks of many medical conditions,  including cancer, arthritis and heart disease. Paper published in 2004.    
                                                                           
                                                                           
                                                                           
· Sleeping for <=5 hours per night leads to 39% increase in heart disease. Sleeping for <=6 hours per night leads to 8% increase in heart disease.  Paper published in 2006.                                                  
                                                                           
                                                                           
                                                                           
Ideal Sleep                                                                
                                                                           
                                                                           
                                                                           
For lack of space, I cannot explain here the ideal sleep architecture. But in brief, sleep is composed of two stages: REM ( Rapid Eye Movement ) and  non-REM. The former helps in mental consolidation while the latter helps  in physical repair and rebuilding. During the night, you alternate between REM and non-REM stages 4-5 times.                                          
                                                                           
                                                                           
                                                                           
The earlier part of sleep is mostly non-REM. During that period, your   pituitary gland releases growth hormones that repair your body. The latter part of sleep is more and more REM type.                                  
                                                                           
                                                                           
                                                                           
For you to be mentally alert during the day, the latter part of sleep is  more important. No wonder when you wake up with an alarm clock after 5-6  hours of sleep, you are mentally irritable throughout the day (lack of REM sleep). And if you have slept for less than 5 hours, your body is in a    complete physical mess ( lack of non-REM sleep ), you are tired throughout the day, moving like a zombie and your immunity is way down ( I’ve been    there, done that ).                                                        
                                                                           
                                                                           
Finally, as long-distance runners, you need an hour of extra sleep to   repair the running related damage..                                        
                                                                           
                                                                           
If you want to know if you are getting adequate sleep, take Epworth        Sleepiness Test below.                                                    
                                                                           
Interpretation: Score of 0-9 is considered normal while 10 and above   abnormal. Many a times, I have clocked 21 out the maximum possible 24, the only saving grace being the last situation, since I don’t like to drive (  maybe, I should ask my driver to answer that line ).                      
                                                                           
In conclusion:                                                            
                                                                           
Barring stress control, Ranjan Das did everything right: eating proper    food, exercising ( marathoning! ),  aintaining proper weight. But he      missed getting proper and adequate sleep, minimum 7 hours. In my opinion,  that killed him.    

                                                 
If you are not getting enough sleep ( 7 hours ), you are playing with   fire, even if you have low stress.                                        

                                                                           
I always took pride in my ability to work 50 hours at a stretch whenever  the situation warranted. But I was so pooked after seeing the scientific  evidence last week that since Saturday night, I ensure I do not even set  the alarm clock under 7 hours. Now, that is a nice excuse to get some more sleep.                                                                    
                                                                           
Unfortunately, Ranjan Das is not alone when it comes to missing sleep.    Many of us are doing exactly the same, perhaps out of ignorance. Please    forward this mail/article to as many of your colleagues/friends as   possible, specially those who might be short-changing their sleep. If we  can save even one young life because of this email, I would be the  happiest person on earth.

Reader Feedback

35 Responses to “What killed SAP CEO Ranjan Das and lessons for corporate India”

  1. savithri says:

    yes.sleep makes up most of the dead cells in brain. there s no use of taking pride of working for long hours.

  2. M.R.Rangaswamy says:

    That explains the gigantic strength of KUMBHAKARNA, an epic hero of RAMAYANA,

  3. thresiamma mathew says:

    very valuable information for a person like me who can manage without sleep for a full night as the situation demands.

  4. johannes says:

    it may seem this is logical, but it is not supported by medical findings that the cause of his death is the lack of sleep.

    however sleeping on the average of 8hrs a day is still a recommended health habit for all of us.

  5. Hamish Hill says:

    this doccument is completely unsubstanciated. where are the referances too crediable studies? you haven’t even told us the name of your “well-known cardiologist” if he actually believes in what you are saying then surely he would be happy too at least put his name down. its this kind of bad documentation and scare mongering that led to millions of people bleveing that flu shots gave children autism.

    this is an opinion of someone who dosen’t even belive his own work enough too put his name on it

  6. Rajan says:

    Being a yoga teacher I can say this. One of the valid reasons for sleeping less is if you wake up early to practice yoga (and meditation as part of yoga). One or two hours of yoga/pranayama/meditation is better for your health and stress reduction than the same duration of sleep.
    Much Peace

  7. I just love it! Amazing article. I simply wish you updated it regularly. I keep your web site in my favorites. Do you think that I could do a guest post at some time?

  8. Priyo says:

    I am Taekwondo trainer, as a trainer i agreed that we should sleep well, to get energy. Today in corporate world lots of people have the same problem, like working till late night with the pressure of job. Okay if we sleep 5 to 6 hour every day, and wake-up early and do the regular work-out with proper diet, i believe it would not effect anything. Need to follow a proper schedule in our life that can make your world wonderful.

  9. Konsolidace Pro Slovaky

  10. Kirti says:

    Even if I set the alarm clock for 6 hours , I am unable to get up before 7 hours of sleep . Enough sleep has always been a necessity for me.

  11. Dr.Jojy Cheriyan says:

    Cause of death in Rajan Das case could be Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy , a genetic condition preexisting in many YOUNG people that can lead to cardiac arrest and sudden death. This should be confirmed first before coming to unscientific conclusions given in this article. No study is properly reported in this article. As a doctor I don’t think the cardiologist mentioned in this article is real.
    Also I would recommend to test Rajan’s children to rule out any signs of Cardiomyopathy.
    Exercise improves sleep and reduce CRP; reduces stress and improves heart health. So the chance for Rajan to have high level of CRP is not true.
    Studies have shown that CRP has no association with Sleep loss. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17702268 .
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22011850
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20083961
    Some studies have also shown that exercise reduces CRP and Interleukin-6 except in people who have Type 2 diabetes. But benefitted diabetic patients by improving insulin sensitivity.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16556721
    Exercise is always a must. Enough sleep is always necessary. Too much sleep is a disorder that needs treatment. Rajan Das never said he has sleepless nights to conclude that he had sleep deprivation. He could never have done all the marathon exercises without sleep. That shows he had adequate sleep for his body. Also he had sufficient rest during the weekends.
    My comments are to prove that sleep loss is not the exact cause of death in Rajan Das case and the article is not scientifically substantiated.
    Dr.Jojy Cheriyan
    Physician-Scientist

    • Anonymous says:

      I do not agree with the cardiologists/doctors here. Going by pure medical books, one could say death through ‘sleep depravation’ is out of syllabus, but empirical practice shows that it has indirect manifestations.

      I tend to sleep <6 hours most days and there was once a stretch (1998-2000), when I slept <5 hours. I prided myself on my ability to go without sleep and kept my food intake relatively light so that I didn't get drowsy… At the end of the day, it took its toll and I had to correct.

      And the past 2 years, my wife has been on my case to sleep more – there seems to be correlation between low sleep and BP, which then leads to other complications.

      This article is a wake up call for me!

      So, cardiologists, first, do not read literally into lack of sleep causes death (and say it's out of syllabus).

      There are always exceptions – a chain smoker for several decades could live till 90 and a smoke free youngster could die of lung disease in the 20s… That doesn't mean…

      Lack of sleep triggers other issues which in turn could trigger others and eventually lead to… It is also indicative of a person stressing oneself. Most would consider my education and career extremely successful. I sleep less because I want to get more done and feels that what one has done is not enough… But one needs to realize that one needs to play an overall good innings and not go for a bunch of sixers and then lose one's wicket.

      Thanks for this article. I will try to sleep at least 7 hrs.

  12. Joel says:

    Great information! Thank you

  13. Shailendra Dawane says:

    Thanks for Sharing!!! Sleep Well stay well.

  14. required says:

    sleep did not have anything to do with it

  15. George says:

    The air we breath and the amount of sleep we enjoy are the two things which keep a man/woman alive. If a man/woman is suffering from any form of pulmonary disease-he is the destitute not the so called poor people. Similarly a man/woman who is unable to enjoy the right quantity and quality sleep is the poorest of poor in the world.To put it in a nut shell- work to live,do not live to work. Rest and some amount of solitude are the best friends from whom a man/woman can derive sustained pleasure.

  16. aj says:

    I would respond, but now need to take a nap.

  17. vivek says:

    It is common sense to have sleep and proper food. But in this age of too much ambitions and intelligence, people tend to cross limits in everything we do. A

    And we don’t need scientific studies to prove that, just stay awake for a night and check yourself. People get irritated soon and can easily lose control. This is the case with majority of people. Thank God, sun sets by evening…

  18. I like the writer’s viewpoints on this subject. It’s refreshing to know that there are people out there with passion in their beliefs. I can appreciate the points made here and I concur with many.

  19. Ankan says:

    I believer in today’s times, especially in a city like Mumbai, where distances are so much that everybody is fighting for time.

    In these situations, in order to keep your body fit and weight under control, is better to sleep less (4-6 hours)and spend sometime in the gym.

    One can explore becozule z multivitamin capsules. These help in energizing the body.

  20. Normally I don’t read post on blogs, but I would like to say that this article very pressured me to take a look at and I could not stop myself by writing comment over here. Your article has been amazed me. Thank you.

  21. Derrick Deary says:

    Too much sleep can also cause other health problems like insulin resistance or obesity. Always sleep like 7-8 hours. ,*`,,

    Our new blog site
    http://www.melatoninfaq.com/

  22. sal says:

    God give us 24hrs a day, 8hrs to work. Another 8hrs to rest n play and the last 8hrs to sleep. Its human nature …think wisely, money is important but its can’t buy u health n happiness.

  23. Sugyan Modi says:

    Very interesting and useful. Stress is main killer.One can win over this to some extent by living personal life,business life,social life and spiritual life,all simaltaniaslly.Slieep,though play an important part,but helping and serving others do play an important part.

  24. Dr Riyaz Quereshi says:

    Stress is bad. It causesblood pressureto rise. Butit cannot be prooved that lack of sleep killed ranjan das

  25. [...] was enough of a contributing factor to make me sit up and start taking notice. Then I came across this article about the death of 42 year old SAP CEO Ranjan Das in 2009. Ranjan was apparently pretty [...]

  26. Ram says:

    Guys,
    No matter how busy you are how rarely you get free time. Please allocate atleat 7-8 hours of time for a sound sleep. otherwise its nothign but digging your own grave. Am just 24. I just realized this from one of my friend. Take care guys. Do workouts, sleep well. Be fit live for long time.

    Wish you all the very best

  27. Jsaf says:

    Please. This article is ridiculous and unfounded. As a cardiologist I can assure you that no one dies of stress. They die of the coping mechanisms related to stress – or, they died of “natural causes” ie premature coronary artery disease or HCM. Indian males, and this has been demonstrated in medical studies, have a predilection to premature CAD. Does anyone know Das’ family hx? Does he have father/brother/ mother/sister with cad? Stress not lack of sleep kills people. Sorry to say it but its true. Otherwise every doctor and nurse who work in the OR or ED would be dead before 40

  28. Manj says:

    While i am not sure of the scientific merits of the argument presented by the author, I am certainly inclined to believe it since we lost a friend recently who seemed to share the same attributes described here: extremely fit, a strong athlete, no bad habits etc. The only questionable aspect would be the amount of sleep he used to get.

  29. SiddhArch says:

    coz of death was that he was .., a Marathon Runner.., if he would have been doing pushups or lifts weight even thou less sleep wouldnot have killed him.., there are several reasons to it but the foremost reason is ur heart becomes bigger while u lift weights or do some kind of resistance training , and of course destiny who can deny destiny .., just we should remember the person who did invented the MArathon died the very day.., althou there are death accidents happens in weight lifting too but not as first person coz if u see in prehistoric age .., we where hunters and weight lifters (lifting logs or carrying huge chunk of meat and walk).., only time we would have run or I should say is Sprint is to the nearest tree ,, to escape from tiger attack .., our body is designed for weight lifting not for running long distances its unnatural.., u need cardio play some sports or do like 100pushups and eat clean .., meaning no junk or processed food take natural balance diet

  30. whjho says:

    I am reading the book “resonant Leadership” by Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee.

    It speaks of renewal of the mind, body, spirit, compassion. It says that we need to move between stress, Sacrifice Syndrome, Power Stress and CEO disease.

    Jonathan HO

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