Sleep: Why Successful Entrepreneurs Snooze More and Work Less
The value placed on sleep has plummeted in recent years as members of the business community have continued to to brag about how many hours they’ve clocked, versus how many hours of sleep they’ve lost.
Sacrificing sleep may seem to make sense, considering that entrepreneurs' to-do lists are often lengthy and their time limited, as they try to scale their businesses for the future. However, sleep loss actually isn’t a productive way to be more successful; in fact it dilutes entrepreneurs' ability to perform during the work day.
This message is beginning to get through. Now that prominent business leaders like Jeff Bezos and Arianna Huffington have begun advocating for a healthy amount of sleep, the sleep-deprived entrepreneur will hopefully become a thing of the past.
The misconception: Sleep is wasted time
You’ve probably heard people advocating for 20-minute naps every few hours or for sleep times of just four hours a night. Such fabled sleep schedules are heralded for providing additional waking hours to (supposedly) get more done. But the belief in more benefits from less sleep has been proven to not be the case for most of us. Certainly, it's not the norm.
Those who are sleep deprived in fact have been shown to be more irritable, forgetful and anxious, and to suffer other mental effects. Those not sleeping enough also lack concentration, coordination and energy throughout the workday. A combination of any of these effects is hardly optimal for achieving success, especially when running a business.
Other health effects have been found when someone isn’t sleeping enough. The human body lacking sufficient sleep is more likely to gain weight, have higher blood pressure and be at a higher risk for diabetes and heart attacks. So, if you're running a company, pay attention to your sleep cycle; that way, you won't pay the price. Keeping your body in tip-top shape will also ultimately mean less time out of the office due to poor health, and more time for the (nonwork activities) you love.
Here's another issue: If you’re sleep deprived for more than a few nights, you will accrue a “sleep debt.” This debt can’t be fixed with just one "make-up" night of great sleep. In fact, the effects of sleep deprivation will remain steadfast until you rectify your sleeping behavior long term. The common assumption that “If I don’t sleep, I can make it up later” is completely false.
So, while lack of sleep may be a badge of honor for some businesspeople, don't be one of them. Instead, incorporate some of the following tips to make time for sleep in your busy schedule.
1. Create a healthy sleep schedule.
Analyze your day, from when you wake up to the time you lie down at night. Understanding how your day works and where you’re using your time will allow you to build a sleep schedule that perfectly suits your needs. The average adult needs anywhere from seven to nine hours of sleep a night to feel well rested. That’s time asleep, not just in bed. Usually, it takes about 15 minutes for someone to fall asleep, so take that time into account, as well.
Allowing for that magical eight hours will give you enough time to get to sleep and account for interruptions. Usually, we’re not aware of how much we’re actually sleeping because our tossing and turning is interrupting our sleep.
2. Trim down your workplace duties.
This may be difficult for those in the early stages of building a company, but setting aside sleep time for yourself will help your business thrive. If you have people under you or beside you who can assume some of your responsibilities, let them absorb some of your workload.
If that’s not possible, evaluate your workload and see what is time sensitive and what you can divert to later. Life will always throw new challenges, goals and deadlines at you, but prioritizing sleep starts by prioritizing your workday.
3. Sneak in sleep when you can.
If your schedule is extremely demanding, try to grab a nap whenever possible. It has been shown that short, ten-to-20-minute naps can improve cognitive functions. Any nap longer than 20 minutes, however, can kick you into REM sleep, which causes you to feel groggy if you are woken up up in the middle of it.
Try to take a nap before 3 pm to avoid delaying your bedtime later in the day. Drinking coffee before a nap can also help wake you up before the 20-minute mark. This works because coffee takes approximately that amount of time to work itself into your bloodstream and perk you up.
Make sure to block out as much sun and noise wherever you’re napping so that you get to sleep as quickly as possible. Distractions can ruin a nap's effectiveness. Let your coworkers know you’re napping so all interactions can be halted while you’re catching up on your sleep.
4. Make the time you have to sleep more efficient.
No matter how much time you dedicate to sleep, it is important to make that time efficient. The first thing to do when trying to get to bed, then, is ditch the technology. Yes, it may be hard to detach yourself from email, but setting aside at least 30 minutes to spend without your phone before bed will allow you to fall asleep more easily when that time arrives.
A nightly ritual will also encourage your body to associate whatever you do late at night with bedtime This could be as simple as setting out your clothes for the next day, reading or taking a shower. The key thing is to have a way to tell your body it is time to sleep.
Then, once you’re in bed, focus on rest, not your next day's goals. Being under lots of pressure forces people to use any downtime to problem solve or plan for the future. But focusing on sleep will ease your mind and make it easier to fall asleep. Tossing and turning through a problem at work will degrade your sleep quality at night and your mental alertness during the day.
5. Embrace sleep and prosper.
Doing as much as possible with your day may be desirable, but a nonstop mentality will have serious effects down the road for your productivity. Catching up on sleep here and there doesn’t make up for long-term sleep deprivation, as many believe. "Sleeping in" on the weekends won’t repair the damage from poor sleep habits during the week, either.
The message here: Make sleep a priority in your career and you’ll feel more alert and happier and ready to impact the world with your new ideas and opportunities.