Could More Sleep Boost Your Business?Bottom-line reasons to move sleep higher up your to-do list.
Some leaders, including one prominent business-owner-turned-political-candidate, brag about how little sleep they get. But as Arianna Huffington famously learned when she collapsed from exhaustion, forgoing sleep to get more done can backfire.
Logging the recommended seven or eight hours of shuteye is a tall order for most small business owners. Yet if your attitude tends toward “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” or “I’ll make up for it with coffee,” you’re in for an eye-opener. Here’s why you should probably move sleep higher up your to-do list.
How sleep affects you
“Sleep affects every aspect of well-being,” said Anne Bartolucci, PhD, an Atlanta-based sleep specialist. “If you are not getting enough sleep, you have a weakened immune system, and you are more likely to get sick. Long-term sleep deprivation has many negative health outcomes like stroke, obesity, diabetes and heart disease.”
According to studies, sleep is key to success because it helps you:
- Reactivate and reorganize recently learned material
- Make unusual connections between patterns — in other words, be creative
- Improve your productivity — working when exhausted is not unlike working under the influence of alcohol
- Make sound decisions — according to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, “the region of the brain known as the prefrontal cortex (PFC) is responsible for many higher-level cognitive functions and is particularly vulnerable to a lack of sleep”
“A lot of patients complain they are not able to be alert and focused as their job requires them to be. There are also complaints of short term memory issues,” said Bartolucci. Forgo sleep, and you risk making poor strategic decisions as well as not being able to recognize effective solutions for your business.
Logging too few zzzs will also affect your relationship with your employees. “The number one complaint in regards to mood is irritability,” said Bartolucci. The more groggy or cranky you are, the less likely your employees will want to turn to you for help and support, which could ultimately affect your business’ performance.
Issues related to sleep deprivation are magnified after a few nights in a row of scant shuteye.
Secrets to better, faster, deeper sleep
Once you decide to devote more hours to sleep, these tricks can help you use those hours efficiently.
Stop seeing blue in the evening. Your smartphone, tablet and computer are keeping you up at night in more ways than one. “Our bodies are completely messed up when it comes to our blue light exposure from tablets and cellphones,” said Bartolucci. “The light wavelength is similar to sunlight, so it makes it harder for the body to wind down and go to sleep at night.”
Bartolucci advised avoiding blue light exposure starting two hours before bed. She suggested using the Night Shift function on the iPhone, which switches the blue light to yellow. “I recommend to patients to turn Night Shift on once the sun goes down. For PC and Android users, there is a similar program called f.lux.”
Cool it. Keep your bedroom temperature at a cool 65 degrees Fahrenheit. And make sure the room is dark. Install room-darkening shades if need be. Even freshly washed sheets can help ensure a peaceful slumber.
Wake up at the same time 24/7. “Try to maintain a regular wake time even on the weekends. It is annoying but useful,” said Bartolucci. “Some literature says that we get our best sleep after midnight, which isn’t necessarily true. Some people’s biorhythms are different. See what works for you in your schedule and your lifestyle. Don’t feel pressured that you need to be a 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. sleeper.”
Keep your nighttime schedule consistent. “Have a stable bedtime routine,” said Bartolucci. Maybe that entails taking the dog out one last time, brushing your teeth, doing some stretches and reading a few pages of a book on paper before hitting the sack. (One thing your routine shouldn’t include: a nightcap. It will reduce REM sleep.) By sticking to the same sequence each night, “you are telling your body and mind that it is now time to go to sleep.”
So how do you know when you’ve had a good night’s sleep? Bartolucci suggested keeping your wake times as consistent as possible, then charting when you get sleepy. “That helps determine how many hours you need to sleep,” she said.
“But really, you want to see how you feel during the day. Once you get going, if you feel like you are good and rested and you are able to handle your duties, then that is a good signal you had a good night’s rest.”