Entrepreneurs often ask how best to stay motivated and productive, manage stress, and keep healthy and positive in the face of running a business and finding time for everything else in their lives. While there are all kinds of lifestyle choices that can help, there is one key factor that towers above them all: sleep. Getting the right amount of sleep each night is absolutely essential for more reasons than many of us realize. While we all know that refreshing feeling when you wake from a solid sleep, keeping a consistent routine can be tricky.
Do you get enough sleep?
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends at least seven hours of sleep per night. If you feel overwhelmed from your responsibilities, you may be tempted to sacrifice hours of sleep in favor of getting more done. But doing so will cost you in the long run. Sleep deprivation can have a grave impact on one’s mood, memory, concentration, and ability to manage stress (ask any new parent or the caregiver of an elderly loved one). Over time, sleep loss can even lead to weight gain and put you at greater risk of illness.
More sleep will allow you to function better, stay on task, and live a happier, more productive life, yet many of us do not focus on making this a regular occurrence.
Why? Good sleep habits are difficult to form and sometimes counter-intuitive. Many people enjoy sleeping in on weekends, but this can throw off our sleep cycle. One of the best ways to maintain a consistent sleep schedule is to get up at the same time every morning. If you need extra sleep, go to bed earlier rather than sleeping in later. This will help you maintain your circadian rhythms so you can get to sleep more easily the following night.
- Limit your caffeine consumption. It’s best to consume your coffee (not too much!) before noon. This one is tough for me, as I still love my afternoon espresso. I am experimenting with green tea to lighten the 3:00pm caffeine intake. (Yes, I sleep better those days!).
- Limit your screen time. Try to avoid checking your phone right before bed. The blue light from digital displays can affect your circadian clock. Scrolling through social media or playing games on your phone can overstimulate your brain, as well. When I make the mistake of checking the phone before bed, I immediately feel amped. If I bring my phone in my room, it is for the alarm (and so my mom can reach me).
- Start lowering the lights shortly before bedtime. This starts to signal to your body that sleep time is near. [If you’re like me, it’s all lights on then all lights off. Time to invest in a dimmer switch!]
- Don’t use your bed for working or watching videos. This creates an anxious association when you’re supposed to be preparing for rest. Save your bed for sleeping.
- Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and comfortable. A sleep mask, ear plugs, or white noise machine can be helpful if your environment isn’t perfect. [I’ve been using ear plugs since 1997 when I lived on a uphill slope in San Francisco and cars accelerated past my window. I’ve never turned back!]
- Table your thoughts. Keep a pen and paper next to your bed so if you feel anxious at night, you can jot down a note or reminder. This way you release the thought from your brain and know that you can revisit it the next day. This habit is essential for those of us (me!) whose brain likes to hold on to these nagging nuggets.
- Practice relaxation exercises or meditation before you lay down. Consider trying a few yoga poses to settle your body and your mind prior to sleep. Find what works for you.
Maintaining a regular sleep schedule is definitely easier for some than for others. If you can stay on track, however, you’ll find yourself feeling healthier, happier, and more productive than ever.
Here’s to a good night’s sleep!