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WORK-LIFE BALANCE

7 Sleep Habits of Successful Entrepreneurs

Your lack of sleep may actually be harming your company--and your health. Here's how to fix it.

One common side effect of running your own business? Sleepless nights. Between the long hours and intense stress of managing a company, entrepreneurs often wind up functioning on very little sleep.

But not sleeping well has implications beyond feeling groggy the next day. Lack of sleep has been shown to increase stress levels and increase the incidence of depression and anxiety. It can also be a major contributor to poor food choices and weight gain. In other words, when you don't get enough sleep, you're not operating at your greatest potential. Poor sleep could even be getting in the way of your success.

Here are seven habits that will help you get a better night's sleep--and boost your productivity during the day.

1. Stop eating three hours before bedtime.
If you’re eating your biggest meal at night--or if you snack until bedtime, you are more likely to have broken or disjointed sleep. After you eat, your body needs to work to digest it, which can hinder your ability to wind down for bed. Plus, if you are eating sugary foods at night, the effect on your blood sugar could have you waking up in the middle of the night and make it difficult for you to fall back asleep. Often, entrepreneurs overeat at night because they've been skipping meals during the day. One of the best ways to prevent that unhealthy cycle is to have a solid, protein-rich breakfast.

2. Stop drinking coffee eight hours before bedtime.
Coffee can linger in your system for eight to 10 hours. If you are fueling your days with caffeine, that is likely getting in the way of restful night’s sleep. Another reason to lay off the caffeine: coffee depletes serotonin, the feel good chemical in your brain that makes you feel calm and happy. Drinking too much coffee can not only lead to insomnia and disjointed sleep but may also aggravate feelings of stress and anxiety.

3. Take a shower or a bath before bed.
Taking a shower before bedtime is not only calming, but it raises your body temperature. Afterward, as you cool off, your body temperature drops, inducing a feeling of drowsiness. This lowered body temperature makes it easier to fall asleep--and stay asleep.

4. Avoid alcohol before bed.
Many people with insomnia or sleep problems falsely believe that having a glass of wine before bed will help them get a better night’s sleep. Though alcohol may make it easier to fall asleep, it can make it difficult to stay asleep. Alcohol raises your core body temperature, increasing the chance you’ll wake up in the middle of the night--and making it difficult to fall back asleep.

5. Avoid vigorous exercise at night.
If you are squeezing in your workouts late at night after you wrap up at the office, it could be hurting your sleep. Though some light stretching and even gentle yoga postures are fine (and somewhat helpful) before bed, vigorous workouts may keep you from falling asleep. Exercise is energizing--it gets blood flowing and muscles moving. It's a fantastic way to get your day started, but in the evenings, it can get in the way of your ability to relax and get ready for bed.

6. Create a soothing sleep environment.
Make sure the temperature in your bedroom is cool enough to induce and maintain sleep. And keep your shades drawn to block out streetlights. If you are troubled by excessive noise from the street, use earplugs or invest in soundproof windows. Having a cozy sleep environment will allow for more restful and restorative sleep.

7. Write down the three best things about your day--and three things you plan to tackle tomorrow.
One sleep study found that those who take a few minutes every night to reflect on and acknowledge the good things that happened to them that day were able to sleep better. That dose of positivity induced feelings of calm that allowed for more restful sleep. And writing down three things you plan to tackle the next day helps you get those thoughts onto paper and out of your head. That way, you won't be running through your to-do list while you are trying to fall asleep.

Follow these tips and you'll feel more rested and more productive at work. You may even see your mood and your health improve.

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Last updated: Aug 12, 2013

BARBARA MENDEZ | Columnist

Barbara Mendez is a nutritionist in New York City. For more information about her private practice, visit BarbaraMendezNutrition.com.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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