“There’s not enough hours in the day.”
Virtually every small business owner and entrepreneur laments that there’s not enough time to complete everything we have to do. So, we stay up late, get up early. We try to gain extra hours by cheating our sleep. But we may be cheating ourselves and our businesses.
Because, it turns out, getting a good night’s sleep may be a secret to small business success.
But most of us don’t think so. “I only need four hours of sleep,” we boast. We view sleep as something optional. But in reality, fewer than five percent of people can perform well on only a few hours of sleep a night. For the rest of us, we need seven to eight hours each and every night.
After all, every day, entrepreneurs and small business owners need to be able to think clearly. We make decisions and solve problems, deal with people, be creative. We need the energy to put in a full day’s work. All this requires sleep, and enough of it.
“What we have discovered is that high-level brain regions required for complex judgments and decisions become blunted by a lack of sleep,” said Matthew Walker, quoted in the newsletter SciTechDaily. Walker, who heads the Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, explained that sleep acts as a storage function for all the information we gather during the day, clearing the way for us to start learning and processing new information.
Recent studies indicate that a lack of sufficient nightly sleep is correlated with:
- Impaired short-term memory
- Impaired decision-making
- Decreased creativity
- Weakened immune system and greater susceptibility to illness
- Increased likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s
- Increased likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease
When we don’t sleep enough, we suffer. And our businesses suffer along with us.
As difficult as it is to get enough sleep when you’re in your regular routine, it’s much harder when you’re traveling. You may be in a different time zone; you eat at irregular hours; you’re in unfamiliar surroundings.
One hotel is trying to address this problem head-on—through using science.
“If you’re on a business trip, you want to be at your best,” said Fiona Harris, International Director of Public Relations for Corinthia Hotels. “That night’s sleep is the most important thing in determining whether you’ll have a great day. So we said let’s put science behind this.”
The Corinthia made improving the quality of their guests’ sleep a major company initiative. Working with sleep expert, Dr. Guy Meadows, head of the UK’s “Sleep School,” and nutritionist Jeannette Hyde, they identified key components of good sleep. They even created a “Sleep Retreat” at their London property—including special menus, massage, optional one-on-one sleep consultations with Dr. Meadows.
You don’t have to go to London to apply some of the techniques to get better sleep and be on your game when running your business. Here are some tips to improving your sleep:
- Eat protein at every meal. One surprising thing Corinthia’s Harris discovered is that a lack of protein is often associated with sleep problems.
- Eat foods rich in the amino acid tryptophan, especially during the last meal of the day. Tryptophan increases the production of the sleep hormone melatonin. (Turkey, for example, is high in tryptophan, and it’s one reason we’re all sleepy after Thanksgiving dinner.)
- Forget that nightcap. Unless it’s warm milk, that is. A nice shot of brandy may make you drowsy, but impairs sleep quality. The Corinthia serves warm milk and a pumpkinseed cookie (which is high in tryptophan) at bedtime.
- Stop using blue-light emitting devices early in the evening. Electronic devices, such as smartphones, computers, ereaders reduce melatonin, decreasing sleep quality.
- Establish a regular bedtime routine. Go to bed at a certain time, read a physical (not electronic) book, and then turn out the lights.
- Exercise—early in the day. Getting enough exercise helps you sleep well, but not if it’s done at night.
It’s tough to convince yourself that going to bed early and getting a full—and good—night’s sleep is critical to your small business success. But science shows it is.
Copyright, Rhonda Abrams, 2015
This article originally ran in USA Today on April 10, 2015