Want to be More Successful? Go to Bed. And don't think you can 'make up' those missed hours of shut-eye on the weekend.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
We're in the process of scaling one of our businesses. If you have ever been involved in a scale, you know that it takes everything you can give.
To complicate matters, we're scaling that business while keeping our consulting business flourishing. Needless to say, we're burning the proverbial candle at both ends. These days, we start our mornings between 4 and 5 a.m. and work hard until we fall into bed at 10 p.m. or earlier. What we've noticed is that sleep has become more precious than ever, and essential to keeping our performance at its peak.
Why sleep is important
When we were younger, we felt less of a need for sleep. We believed we could stay out late, get up early and down a few cups of coffee ; that was all we needed to keep going.
Now, as we are a bit older, a few nights with only six hours of sleep can shut us down. Experts tell us that sleep is critical for both our overall health and our emotional well-being. The Cleveland Clinic reports that missing only 90 minutes from the recommended allotment of seven to nine hours will make you less alert, impair your memory, cause trouble in your relationships and overall quality of life and increase the likelihood of having a car accident.
If you continue to believe that somehow you can live on five or six hours of sleep, you could be asking for more serious problems, including high blood pressure, diabetes, heart failure, stroke, obesity and depression. And, if these harbingers of doom aren't enough to make you dive under the covers, add lower sex drive and premature wrinkling to the list.
Obviously, sleep is important. Humans need to recharge on a nightly basis to perform well. But work demands, family and personal issues and physical difficulties can get in the way of a restful night's sleep.
Of course we're not sleep experts; however, we can pass on a few tips that have worked for us and keep us healthy as we give our all to our businesses.
As the numbers above indicate, adults need to sleep between seven and nine hours each night. We find that Doug needs seven while Polly prefers a bit more. To ensure that we get our shut-eye, we go to bed no later than 10 each night. If work demands a 4 a.m. start, we go to bed earlier to make up those zzzzz's.
This takes discipline, but it's worth it. Despite what many think, there really is no way to catch up on sleep. Sleeping in on the weekend won't make up for a lack of sleep during the week.
While we may juggle our bedtime to accommodate an early start, this isn't our preference. We find that going to bed and getting up at the same time each day helps us to fall asleep quickly and wake up naturally – without an alarm.
Experts agree. Going to bed at the same time each night improves memory, academic performance and cardiovascular health, among other benefits. When we do get to sleep by 10 p.m., Doug wakes up naturally at 5 a.m. He makes coffee and returns to the bedroom with a cup for Polly.
This gives her the few extra minutes she requires. Consistency with nightly habits will make for better overall sleep. So, get into your own routine. Turn off the TV and computer, take care of your nightly hygiene, read, pray or meditate. Developing a relaxing pre-bed routine can be key in slowing down your thoughts and getting the sleep you need.
The number of hours you sleep is important, but so is the quality of your sleep. Health issues, aging, hormonal changes and stress can deprive any of us of healthy sleep. One difficulty that occurs as part of the natural aging process is the inability to stay asleep. Older people may find that they wake up several times a night; however, this can affect younger individuals as well.
We find that daily exercise and a consistent routine help us to fall asleep quickly. Keeping the room dark, turning off electronics and avoiding liquids in the hour before bedtime -- plus caffeine after mid-afternoon -- are habits that help us to enjoy restorative sleep. Polly keeps a pair of earplugs in her bedside table just in case she wakes up and Doug is snoring.
No problem-solving at night
In these very busy times, waking up can lead to thoughts that extend our wakefulness. One technique we try to employ is to remind ourselves that we are not going to solve these problems in the middle of the night.In fact, going back to sleep is probably the best thing we can do to increase our chances of being able to solve the problem tomorrow.
As a last-ditch effort, you may find it helpful to jot down the issues raging in your brain so that you can take them up again in the morning. Somehow, listing issues on paper can be liberating for the mind, allowing you to fall back to sleep again.
No matter what challenges you face each day, doing so with a good night's sleep will help us all to be more successful. We need to acknowledge that to be at our best, seven to nine hours of sleep is necessary. What's more, we can't cheat these numbers for a few nights and hope to make up for it later. It doesn't work that way.
Instead, the best strategy is to get into a healthy routine, make our bedrooms a haven or serenity, turn off the problems of the day and get some sleep. These healthy habits increase everyone's chance of success.