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Up All Night

Trade the joys of entrepreneurship for a night of restful sleep? Never.

OH, NO.

The alarm clock says 3:20 a.m. In four hours, I'm supposed to make a major presentation to a new client, and here I am wide awake. My head has been spinning with anxiety, mild vertigo and wild dreams since I laid it on the pillow three hours ago. If I don't get some sleep, I'm going to feel like day-old Cream of Wheat when I crawl out of bed at six. How will I ever be able to sell the capabilities of my small editorial services company? I'll barely be able to mutter my own name.

If I take one of my killer-but-always-puts-me-right-to-sleep pills now, I won't fully wake up until two hours after the meeting is over. With this big appointment coming up, I should never have tried the New Age cure for insomnia, clove tea, suggested by the woman at the herb store. I should have realized that since cloves make my gums numb to a toothache, why wouldn't clove tea have the same effect on my brain?

Like many restless entrepreneurs, my search for a remedy to help me sleep has become something akin to a quest for the Holy Grail. Clove tea was merely the latest dead end in my hunt. The only thing I've discovered for sure is that there are a zillion cures for insomnia . . . and most of them don't work.

Indeed, there are almost as many ways to treat insomnia as there are business owners who can't get a decent night's rest. I've tried everything-prayer, sedatives, self-help, Nyquil, exercise, chamomile tea, Tylenol PM, late-night television-even, in a last, desperate attempt, reading software documentation.

The problem is stress-that much I know. Running a frantically busy, deadline-obsessive business every day gets my adrenaline pumping madly. The only cure that consistently works is my killer-but-always-puts-me-right-to-sleep Halcion pill. I hate to use it, but if there's one thing I hate more, it's tossing and turning all night. At times, I've taken Halcion for two and three weeks straight, until either its clout begins to diminish or my teeth are loose in my gums.

Actually, I know there's a better cure, one that would let me enjoy night after night of safe and restful sleep: I could get a stress-free job. But I love running my own business. There's nothing like the freedom of working for yourself, that feeling of shaping your own destiny, the eternal hope that a rich mother lode might make itself known with the next ring of the phone. A no-stress job would be a fate worse than death.

So I lie there hallucinating in my clove-induced spell. I spend 10 minutes wondering what might happen if I combine the effects of the clove tea and Halcion. They'd probably have to wheel me into the meeting on a dolly. I think about my life-which, sleeplessness aside, has never been happier. I think about what I should include in this article. Then I get up to take my killer pill.

On the way to the medicine cabinet, I check the play in my teeth.

If you'd like to sound off on small-business issues, please write to "Sounding Off," in care of Entrepreneur, 2392 Morse Ave., Irvine, CA 92714.


Dave Swaney frequently pulls all-nighters in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he owns David Swaney & Associates.

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This article was originally published in the January 1996 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Up All Night.

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