It's safe to say that being an entrepreneur comes with an assortment of responsibilities. Raising capital, taking care of clients, and cultivating a high performing work culture are among the many. While all of those responsibilities are important, there's a central habit that oversees everything else: your everyday decision making.
How exactly can you go about making sound decisions on a consistent basis? There are many tactics and tips that circulate around the internet, but all of those will be all-for-naught without consistent high-quality sleep.
In fact, a 2019 study from the Journal of Business Venturing studied the connection between sleep and the cognitive skills needed to identify and evaluate ideas.
This study surveyed more than 700 entrepreneurs from around the world about their sleep patterns, hours of sleep and types of sleep. Business pitches were drafted and an independent panel of business experts reviewed and ranked the pitches as having the most potential, medium potential and least potential for success.
Firstly, participants reviewed all three pitches on the same day. The leaders who had less sleep did not consistently pick the best pitches. The second aspect of the study had participants evaluate pitches over several weeks while documenting their sleep patterns.
Participants who had at least seven hours of sleep each night consistently selected the best pitches identified by the expert panel while those with less than that amount or who experienced restless sleep didn't consistently pick the best pitches.
This led the authors to draw the conclusion that "less sleep leads to less accurate beliefs."
This leads to the next logical piece of the puzzle: how to actually get high-quality sleep. While the usual suspects such as caffeine are mentioned, there's another important one that must be addressed.
Your use of artificial lighting at night.
Much like a symphony needs harmony for optimal performance, our bodies need harmony for optimal productivity and cognitive output.
Months ago, I spoke with Colin Billings, CEO of lighting company Orro who like myself, was forced to learn more about the effects of artificial lighting after experiencing effects of burnout ranging from foggy cognition, fatigue, and irritability among other things.
As he was explaining to me, "the accumulation of artificial light that we're exposed to throughout the day, especially at night time affects our circadian rhythm, which is essentially the biological transitions that happen between wake and sleep cycles. Light can undermine that rhythm."
A 2017 study appearing in Translational Psychiatry found that the steadily use of artificial lighting at night affects your mood, behavior, and overall health. A big reason is your sleep quality declining.
A few habits to help mitigate artificial lighting and increase your chances for more restful sleep are:
- Look into free software such as f.lux to help mitigate the blue-blocking light from screens at night
- Eliminate the use of smartphones and computers at least 60 minutes before bedtime
- If you must use a computer, watch TV, or play on your phone--invest in a pair of blue-blocking glasses
- If you're feeling adventurous, install red bulbs in your bedroom since red wavelengths of light are most conducive to sleep
Sleep serves as a regenerative period for your body to help mitigate the stress accumulated throughout the day.
When describing sleeps effects on decision-making and cognitive abilities, Billings perfectly summed it up by stating that "If you're not getting good restful sleep, you're just not prepared for the day tomorrow. Consistently under sleeping softens your mental abilities."