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Entrepreneurs are notorious for pulling all-nighters, but research increasingly shows the harmful effects of lack of sleep — on more than just your health.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, the typical adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep per day to feel rested. Unfortunately, Harvard Business Review tell us that about 30 percent of working Americans are sleeping less than six hours a day.
Lack of sleep can ultimately lead to serious health problems including obesity, heart disease and depression. In business terms, it’s been shown to lead to impaired short-term memory and decision-making ability, as well as decreased creativity. Face it: If you’re groggy and unfocused at work, you’re less productive, less responsive to your employees and customers, and less able to lead your business.
Sure, a few lucky people legitimately get by on four or five hours of sleep a night (Martha Stewart is a four-hour sleeper). But millions of others convince themselves they can, because in our competitive entrepreneurial culture, busy-ness is seen as a badge of importance, while sleeping is seen as a lazy waste of time.
The Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington was once the poster child for the 24/7 entrepreneurs. She regularly bragged about working 18-hour days — until 2007, while she fainted from exhaustion, smashing her cheekbone on the corner of her desk. She’s since done a 180 to become an evangelist for the power of sleep, and recently convinced Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg to join the sleep movement as well.
So, it’s pretty clear that small business owners should get great sleep. But how can you do it while balancing your business?
Take a nap.
And don’t forget to encourage your employees to do it to! The Huffington Post’s New York City offices have two nap rooms. Keep it short; 20 minutes is ideal — more and you’ll wake up groggy.
Put it on paper (or computer).
When you’ve got a million things to do tomorrow, it’s hard to relax enough to get your shut-eye. Do a brain dump an hour before bed — write your to-do’s down so you can stop thinking about them.
Make your bedroom a calming environment.
Experts say the bedroom should be used only for sex and sleep. So don’t make a habit of taking your laptop or tablet to bed.
Don’t think you can catch up on missed weekday sleep on the weekends.
It doesn’t work that way and just disrupts your natural sleep cycle.
Exercise regularly, but not right before going to bed.
Doing so will rev up your body’s engine too much. Save the spin class for morning, and use gentle stretching exercises or meditation to relax before bed.
Don’t drink alcohol or caffeine in the three hours before bed.
You may think alcohol helps you unwind and sleep, but it ultimately disrupts deep sleep, so you’ll tend to wake up in the middle of the night and have trouble getting back to sleep. For many entrepreneurs, this is not doable. If that’s you, don’t sweat it. Staying up three hours after your last sip (of alcohol, coffee or soda) will just further mess with how much sleep you’re getting.
Be mindful of your employees’ need to sleep
Keep your employees in mind! Try to avoid testing or calling them in the middle of the night, unless it’s a true emergency.