8 Reasons Sleep Is Crucial for Entrepreneurs and Leaders

The negative effects of lack of sleep are many -- and not worth it in the end.
8 Reasons Sleep Is Crucial for Entrepreneurs and Leaders
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Sleep is a basic need. In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, sleep is defined as a basic need, along with food, drink, shelter and oxygen. We all know the feeling of there just not being enough hours in the day, and we’ve all lost a night or two of sleep during an important project. But is cutting back on sleep really the answer to increasing efficiency?

Plenty of productivity gurus will advocate for "power napping" instead of getting a solid eight hours of sleep every night, often using Thomas Edison as an example. However, where it comes to scientific studies and statistics, it turns out that losing sleep just isn’t worth it. It won’t improve your overall productivity as a business owner — in fact, it might even have a majorly negative impact on your performance.

From a biological standpoint, adrenaline is released and used for energy after the first 24 hours or so of staying awake. This causes motor functions to be slightly increased due to sleep deprivation. The mind will work twice as hard and your body will be slightly more tense. Cortisol (the endorphin released when one is feeling stress of any sort) will also be released, and it will attempt to regulate some inflammation as well as begin to fray DNA strands.

Related: Tips to Increase Your Team's Productivity

Here are eight reasons why regularly getting a good night’s sleep is crucial to being on top of your game as an entrepreneur.

1. Improved concentration

A regular, healthy sleeping pattern has been scientifically proven to improve concentration and productivity. This is the primary reason why it’s simply not worth skipping sleep in the long term. Sleeping four hours a night may give you an extra four hours of work during the day, but you won’t be able to use this time to its full potential. You’ll get a lot more done in fewer hours if you’ve had a decent night’s sleep.

2. Enhanced problem-solving skills

Solving problems and overcoming challenges are the bread and butter of an entrepreneur’s professional life. Studies show that when you’re well-rested, you’ll be much more efficient at decision making, problem solving and dealing with unexpected challenges. Interestingly, one study found that the negative impact on brain function caused by inadequate amounts of sleep causes an effect similar to alcohol intoxication. You wouldn’t be calling career-making decisions while drunk, so it only makes sense not to do it when you’re tired and worn out.

Related: How to Focus, Be Productive and Maintain Balance During a Crisis

3. Better memory

Not getting enough sleep has been linked in several studies to memory impairment. The work schedule of most entrepreneurs is a hectic and challenging one, and the last thing you want is to forget about an important meeting, misremember someone’s name or lose your train of thought during a pitch. Better memory also means you’ll be more efficient at your job, since you’ll remember important data and pieces of information without having to look them up each time.

4. Less anxiety and depression

Estimates suggest that approximately 15 percent of the adult population will experience depression during their lifetimes. The stress and challenges of an entrepreneur’s professional life create an additional risk of developing a mental health disorder, particularly anxiety and depression. This debilitating condition can be life-ruining — literally, unfortunately, since it increases the risk of suicide. Healthy coping mechanisms are the key to preventing depression — but sleep has been proven to decrease the risk too.

Related: Making Vulnerability a Strength

5. Boosted immune system

Inadequate sleep often means that you get sick often and take longer to recover. When you’re sleep deprived, you’re more likely to catch bugs and viruses, develop inflammation and suffer from other preventable health issues. Yet again, it’s not worth spending an extra few hours working every day instead of sleeping, only to find yourself ill and unable to work for several days due to skipping on rest.

6. Improved social interaction and emotional function

For an entrepreneur, making a good impression during interactions with clients, investors and staff is paramount to success in business. Poor sleep, however, causes mood deterioration and makes it more difficult to control and regulate your emotions. It’s easy to see how this could have a negative impact on social interaction.

The negative social effect of inadequate sleep is not limited to how we deal with our own emotions, either. Prolonged sleep deprivation can also impair our ability to recognize facial expressions of others — even basic ones such as anger or happiness. It’s hard to successfully negotiate a business deal if you can’t distinguish the other person’s facial expressions!

Related: 10 Leadership Lessons from Waze CEO Noam Bardin

7. Better physical form and more efficient exercise

Confidence is key for entrepreneurs, and for most people, being in reasonably good physical shape is crucial to feeling good about themselves. Poor sleep can not only cause us to eat more but also to be less productive during workouts.

Several studies have linked solid sleep to improved physical performance during exercise. This means you’ll be able to get much more out of that one hour at the gym than you would if you worked out while sleep deprived. Interestingly, sleep quality is linked to the production of the hormones responsible for regulating our appetite. In effect, getting adequate sleep results in consuming fewer calories during the day, on average.

8. Decrease in other health risks

Entrepreneurs and business executives are often exposed to high amounts of stress on a regular basis, which presents a risk of heart disease and stroke, among other health problems. Sleep can help to mitigate this hazard. Studies show that poor quality of sleep or inadequate amounts of rest increase the likelihood of developing illnesses and conditions (including heart problems and high blood pressure).

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