Entrepreneurs and sleep don't normally go together--but they should. "If you don't sleep, you go," was the warning in the now-classic A Nightmare on Elm Street, and it holds plenty of truth for a B-horror movie: Without sleep, every part of your mind, body, and spirit suffers.
That's bad enough for the average American, but if you're an entrepreneur or small-business owner? Lack of sleep can lead to lack of business.
"Sleep hygiene" is a very real set of best practices everyone can benefit from, and is just as important as a good morning ritual. Very few people practice optimal sleep hygiene on a regular basis. While there's some wiggle room, and everyone has different tactics that work best, it's important to look at the foundation of the practice, how it affects entrepreneurs, and how you can utilize these strategies for your best health.
Suffering from a mid-day slump? Just can't get around to finishing that business plan? Feel like you always overbook and can't balance work and life? It might be lack of quality sleep that's holding you back. Here's how to fix it:
1.) Understand the Difference Between Insomnia and Occasional Sleeplessness
Insomnia is a serious medical disorder that will require help from a sleep specialist. Insomnia can only truly be diagnosed via a sleep lab. If you suspect your sleeplessness is more serious than "normal," see a doctor first.
2.) Aim for Your Best Sleep Amount
"Getting eight hours of sleep is just the average amount per night a person needs to be fully rested--some people need a little more, some a little less, and some really need a 20-minute power nap each afternoon to reboot," Craig Clark, founder of Pillows.com, says. If you don't suffer from a sleep disorder, you're ideally able to wake up each morning feeling refreshed without the aid of an alarm clock (but always set one just in case).
3.) Minimize Light, Sounds, and Distractions in the Bedroom
The human body craves the right amount of quiet and darkness in order to achieve deep, REM sleep. If there's a pesky streetlight bothering you, invest in blackout curtains. Remove the television from the bedroom and close doors and windows to minimize outside noise. A pink noise machine might be helpful, or better-insulated windows.
4.) Stick to a Two-Hour No-Screen, No-Food Window
For at least two hours before bed, start to wind down. Don't look at any screens, whether it's a laptop or the television. Avoid any heavy meals or exercise. Your body is a machine, but it can't switch off automatically like an iPod. It needs a couple of hours to decompress without excess stimulation. Not only will this minimize your stress and anxiety levels, it also forces you to focus on other things besides answering email or zoning out to syndicated shows.
5.) Ditch the Caffeine Habit
You might be more sensitive to caffeine than you think. If you're addicted (as many people are), start by cutting back or swapping out one cup of coffee per day to decaf. There are also many alternatives to coffee that you could consider incorporating. Eventually, you'll be able to work your way down to a minimal amount of caffeine, which will allow your body to more easily adapt to more natural sleep patterns.
All work and no sleep makes an entrepreneur cranky, unmotivated, and prone to making mistakes. Who knew that one of your best secrets to success was tucked beneath your comforter? Practice better sleep hygiene, and you'll be amazed at the results in your professional and personal life.