Who needs sleep? I know I’d much rather work on a new business idea, or eat chocolate, or watch TV, or brush my cat, or do pretty much anything but sleep. Why sleep when there’s so much more to do? There aren’t enough hours in a day and all that…
I’ll tell you why: because sleep is your key to business success. Um, maybe that’s stretching it slightly, but sleep is key to a quite a few things – your health being the most important – and you can’t deny that your health and your success are related. If you don’t sleep, you’ll be tired. If you’re tired, you’ll be more prone to illness, you’ll forget stuff and make mistakes. If you’re ill and forget stuff and make mistakes, your business just won’t do as well. See where I’m going here?
Sleep is just as important to your overall health as diet and exercise, yet we ignore our Zs so often. Pillow time for our weary heads seems to have become a luxury that many of us can’t afford – something that’s reserved for those who have time to spend their mornings in bed with a cup of tea. Who actually does that?!
When we have businesses to run, kids to taxi around, groceries to buy, meetings to show our faces at, dinner to prepare, social events to attend, and it’s leg day at the gym – c’mon, where the hell does sleep fit in? Even when nighttime rolls around, you’ve done your squats and the kids are tucked up in bed, does this sound familiar: “I just need to finish this one section on my website…”, “I just need to send a few more invoices…”, “I just need to have a quick conference call…”, “I just need to do this last bit of market research…”; so many reasons not to sleep, so little time.
The effect of sleep (or lack thereof) on concentration, productivity, weight gain, athletic performance, mood, immune system, capacity to learn, vision and so much more is unquestionable, yet many of us are just too dang busy to sleep.
According to The Sleep Council, the average adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep per night, and the average time spent dreaming of sugarplums and fairies is only going down. In 1942, 84% of adults were consistently averaging 7-9 hours of shut-eye, and that’s made its way down to 59%, with nearly 1/3 of the population being affected by insomnia.
So, what can we do? Are we screwed as a species, forced to run on empty every day of the year because of the demands of our modern lifestyles, with nowhere to turn but cup after overflowing cup of coffee? We may not be able to go back to the 1940s with their enviable sleep patterns, but there’s plenty we can do to get on track to ensure decent sleep is a priority, helping you function at your best, and ultimately run a successful business, without the caffeine.
1. Limit pre-sleep time on your laptop and phone
I’ve heard so many friends and colleagues say their only downtime is in bed at night, playing on their phone or laptop, reading the news, doing market research, writing emails, catching up on social media. Don’t do it! Not only do bright screens right before bed mess with your natural sleep cycle, but is there anything more distracting and time-sucking than scrolling through r/Eyebleach on Reddit, or looking at your Facebook friend’s ‘Double hen weekend in Miami’ album with 2,487 photos? It’s so easy to get wrapped up in useless, mindless, scroll-y stuff, that even though your intentions are good and you’re in bed at 10pm, by the time you’ve shut off your device, it’s 1.26am and the only worthwhile thing you’ve done is confirm that 25 British women, alcohol and Miami are not things that should be combined more than once in a lifetime.
2. Decide what’s really important
As business owners, there’s always something to do, and all that stuff has to be done NOW. But in reality, it can wait. Entrepreneurs want to hurry up and make their businesses as successful as possible, in as little time as possible, so sacrificing sleep to do this is almost always on the agenda, but does it have to be? Your mindset about work priorities is incredibly important when it comes to sleep. Each day, make sure you’ve prioritised your to-do list, and anything that’s not marked as ‘urgent’ can wait. No, researching nightclubs for after your company’s Christmas dinner isn’t urgent. Be honest with yourself, and make sure you’re not wasting precious sleeping hours doing unimportant things.
3. Ditch your old mattress
Your metre-long to-do list might not be the only thing to blame for your lack of sleep; it could very well be as simple as not having a good mattress. In one study, results showed that sleeping on a new mattress (as opposed to a tatty old one) significantly decreased stress, so not only will your investment in a good bed reduce your everyday tensions, but should help reduce allergies, alleviate some aches and pains, and you give you better quality sleep.
4. Schedule your slumber
Just like everything else in your life and business, if you want to get things done, you need to schedule it in, and that should include sleep. If you have a meeting at 3pm, you don’t sit on Instagram until 4.15 and then roll up to your meeting like it doesn’t matter, so why are we so ok with cutting hours out of our sleep for unnecessary, often mindless things? Try setting a bedtime in your calendar and stick to it.
Deep breathing isn’t just for yogis. It’s such a simple exercise, but so effective for calming your central nervous system and quieting your mind – two things you kinda (totally) need before hitting the hay for a satisfying night’s sleep. There are thousands of articles, videos and apps to teach you deep breathing exercises, so have a look around (before bedtime!), or check out Clic’s favourite, Headspace.
Have any of your own tips for making sure you get the best sleep possible? Leave a comment below, we’d love to hear your ideas.