Too little sleep not only makes you feel lousy and but it also harms your business. Here's how to switch off and then wake up ready to rock. By Nicole Bélanger (Contributing Writer, Women 2.0)
Arianna Huffington, media mogul and founder of The Huffington Post, wants you to sleep your way to the top. Literally.
Although Huffington’s approach to advocating for a healthier relationship with sleep might be funny, the issue of a chronic lack of sleep in America is anything but. In fact, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention contends that insufficient sleep is a public health epidemic in the United States. And, as this 1997 headline from CNN, “Lack of sleep America's top health problem, doctors say,” demonstrates, this is by no means a new problem.
What is your lack of sleep costing you?
The Costs to Your Health
It might surprise you to learn that scientists still have not achieved total consensus on why human beings need sleep, and what specific role(s) sleep plays in our well-being. What they do agree on, however, is that a chronic lack of sleep causes a whole host of health problems.
According to the CDC, sleep insufficiency makes people “more likely to suffer from chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, depression, and obesity, as well as from cancer, increased mortality, and reduced quality of life and productivity.” As if that wasn’t enough, sleep deprivation also negatively impacts the immune system.
Your waistline also suffers when you don’t get enough sleep. Research has found that a lack of sleep might interfere with some of the bodies internal processes that help to regulate weight.
But a 2013 experiment conducted by Swedish researchers found that the connection between sleep and our weight might also be behavioral. Their experiment had 14 men go grocery shopping twice – once after a proper night’s rest, and the other after a night of no sleeping. It may not surprise you to learn that the “men bought more food, and more high-calorie foods, the morning after sleep deprivation than after sleeping well.”
The Costs to Your Business
Sleep insufficiency is “linked to motor vehicle crashes, industrial disasters, and medical and other occupational errors.” Which loosely translates as: not getting enough sleep is really bad for business, and not just if you operate heavy machinery for a living.
Sleep is tremendously important to productivity, creativity and decision-making. Even moderate sleep deprivation mirrors the effects of alcohol impairment. One of the examples that self-styled sleep advocate Huffington points to is President Bill Clinton (famous for his five-hour sleeps), who admitted that the most important mistakes he had made in life were as a result of fatigue and lack of sleep.
This admission from Clinton isn’t surprising, given the body of research available on the impacts of sleep one our cognitive abilities. Circadian neuroscientist Russell Foster explained to the audience at TED that sleep is absolutely essential for memory consolidation and learning: “If after you've tried to learn a task, and you sleep-deprive individuals, the ability to learn that task is smashed.”
But it’s not all bad news! Foster also explains that “our ability to come up with novel solutions to complex problems is hugely enhanced by a night of sleep [...] it's been estimated to give us a threefold advantage.” Basically, sleep is an opportunity for connections in the brain to be linked and strengthened.
Faced with this dire news about the consequences of bad sleep habits, what is an over-burdened founder to do?
5 Simple Sleep Strategies to Implement Tonight
If any of that information has you contemplating the idea of checking yourself into a sleep research facility, here are a few easier (and less expensive) solutions for getting your sleep back on track.
1. Lay off the Booze
While a glass of Malbec might make you sleepy after dinner, don’t jump to the conclusion that a few drinks will help you sleep. Too much alcohol before bed will interrupt your all-important REM sleep later in the night.
2. Keep Tech out of the Bedroom
Your phone and your laptop are a wonderful source of connection and information. But they are also a source of interruption, stress and distraction. Do yourself a favor and replace your bedside phone with an alarm clock.
3. Stick to a Routine
While the life of an entrepreneur is often unpredictable, if you only make one thing non-negotiable, make it your going to bed and wake up times. Experts agree that “a regular sleep schedule—even on weekends—maintains the timing of the body's internal clock and can help you fall asleep and wake up more easily.”
4. Keep it Cool
While a cold room might make it hard to get out of the bed in the morning, it might just be the thing you need to finally start sleeping well at night.
5. Write Down your Worries
Erica Diamond wears a dozen different hats on any day, from writer to entrepreneur to wife to mother. That makes for a lot of stress. She recommends keeping a ‘worry journal’ by the bed to write down (and physically set aside) stressful thoughts to deal with in the morning.
It ultimately comes down to making sleep a priority in your life. As Arianna Huffington perfectly articulates:
“Too many of us think of our sleep as the flexible item in our schedule that can be endlessly moved around to accommodate our fixed and top priority of work. But like a flight or train, our sleep should be thought of as the fixed point in our day, and everything else should be adjusted as needed so we don't miss it.”
What are your tips for switching off and getting a good night's sleep?
Photo credit: MitarArt via Shutterstock.
About the author: Nicole Bélanger is a writer turned coach and speaker who is dedicated to helping others find and live by their authentic definition of success. A two-time TEDx speaker, her writings on personal development, entrepreneurship, and careers have been published in Levo League, Business Insider, Women 2.0, Urban Native Magazine and Huffington Post Women. She tweets at @nskbelanger.