This week was filled with a little travel, and some relaxing down time for reading. I really enjoy Entrepreneur magazine and last week was a story on why Entrepreneurs need more sleep. I liked this idea so much that I have decided to expand upon it a little more here because let’s face it in one way or another we are all Entrepreneurs (bake sale fundraisers to tech startups).
One of the most famous entrepreneurs who has talked openly about her significant sleep problems in the past is Arianna Huffington. She tells her story of when she basically collapses from exhaustion and cuts open her cheek. Another well known entrepreneur who may still currently be struggling with sleep issues is Elon Musk. I wrote about him previously where he said:
“It is often a choice of no sleep or Ambien.”
These are critical situations people fall into when they are working 24/7, like when they start up a new business or are scaling a company, and we want to try to avoid them. There are three areas entrepreneurs’ need to be aware of so that they don’t cut open their face, or make their stock price plummet.
#1 Caffeine. It’s a relationship, not an addiction. Caffeine is the most abused substance on earth. More people ingest some form of caffeine daily than just about any other substance (including alcohol), but what do we really know about its effectiveness in keeping us all awake? Caffeine effects are quick and appear to continue until most, if not all of it, is metabolized. How long can this take? I have seen estimates from 5 -8 hours. This number appears to depend upon how old you are, genetics, medical conditions, weight and how much you ingest. The peak hits within 15-20 min (remember my Nap-a-Latte? Timing is everything).
There seems to be a general guideline that if you keep your consumption under 200-300mg per day, you should be OK, but remember it’s all about timing when it comes to sleep.
The key to using caffeine effectively is to time your coffee break for when cortisol levels are low. Under these conditions, caffeine will trigger an adrenaline boost, helping you feel more alert. The timing of cortisol shifts varies from chronotype to chronotype.
The best times for caffeine are:
Dolphin: 8:30-11 a.m., and 1-2 p.m.
Lion: 8-10 a.m. and 2-4 p.m.
Bear: 9:30-11:30 a.m. and 1:30-3:30 p.m.
Wolf: 12-2 p.m.
(To find out your chronotype, visit http://www.chronoquiz.com/
And remember when to STOP. I also discuss this very topic in my new TedX Talk. Check it out!
If it takes approximately 8 hours to be out of your system, and you’re going to bed at a consistent bedtime, then you should be able to count backward by 8 hours and know your cutoff point! For many people, it is around 2pm.
WHAT CAN YOU DO? Create a Caffeine Calendaring your daily reminders or you can even schedule it by setting a time when you’ll drink your coffee. This will also help lower your consumption because you’ll be paying more attention to it.
#2 Bedtime, it’s not optional. Many people seem to think that they can just “push on through” because they have work to do, but in truth, the more sleep deprived you are the less effective you are as a leader and your productivity tanks!
I’ve written a lot about the effects of poor quality and disrupted sleep on work performance. Poor sleep reduces productivity and increases absenteeism. It dampens creativity and innovative thinking and hampers teamwork. It gets in the way of good, effective leadership. Poor sleep’s effect on work life also has a profound impact on the economy, spiking health care costs, and generating billions in losses from missed workdays and reduced productivity.
People who are self-employed report feeling very high levels of pressure and stress. They often say they end their days feeling exhausted. The self-employed often carry a sense of perpetual strain, and say that worries keep them awake at night. They’re also more likely to place a higher emphasis on work than on relaxation and leisure.
That “always-on” state is tough on sleep. A racing mind and the physical symptoms of stress and hyper-arousal can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night. I have more than a few self-employed patients who wake up very early in the morning, their minds leaping ahead into the day. (I wrote recently about the reasons for waking too early and what you can do about them.)
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Schedule downtime. Whether it’s regular weekends off, stopping work at 6 p.m., or taking periodic longer breaks for vacation, self-employed shouldn’t mean always on the clock. Be a good boss to yourself, and make yourself step away from work. Exercise, mindfulness routines, and a consistent Power Down Hour™ can help reduce the hyper-arousal that stems from being constantly in work mode.
#3 Avoid Blue Light at night and get sunshine in the morning; look like Bono. Is it just me or has that guy been wearing blue light blocking glasses forever? It would not surprise me at all, I hear he is very into health and tech. But when you are working hard and using a computer, late into the evening two things happen:
- You stay stuck in a dark room, AND
- There is often blaring blue light on your face most of the evening
Remember, blue light turns off the melatonin faucet in your brain. This is one of the easiest and most effective things you can do to help your sleep. So, get sun in the morning and avoid blue light at night.
Reminder: Things grow in the sunshine, you are no exception, and neither is your business.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Make standing in front of a window or walking outside a never missed part of your morning routine. The data shows that if you get sunlight (even through a window) within 30 minutes of getting up, it has the most benefits. Take a Sunshine Break instead of a coffee break in the afternoon (especially after 2pm when you will have cut off caffeine!). And of course, use blue light blocking glasses.
Here are a couple of articles that I was interviewed in last week that you may enjoy:
8 Ways To Read The Books You Wish You Had Time For – Harvard Business Review
Couples Are Getting Sleep Divorces – Mamamia.com