How to Sleep Better as an Entrepreneur

May 23, 2013

8:59 am

This post is part of Tech Cocktail’s “Healthy Entrepreneur” series, bringing you insights on food, exercise, and sleep throughout May. The series is presented by Coromega (more info and a giveaway below).

“Sleep hygiene” – no, it doesn’t mean washing your pillowcase every few weeks, though I sincerely hope you do. It refers to the factors that go into a good night’s sleep.

The science of sleep

As Harvard’s Division of Sleep Medicine explains, sleep performs a variety of different functions – many more than we might imagine when we see someone passed out, drooling and snoring. As you sleep, your body releases growth hormones for cell and tissue repair, digestion, and muscle growth. A lack of sleep is linked to chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. It’s also linked to obesity, as a few hours tossing and turning can throw off hormones that regulate appetite and metabolism. Chronic sleep issues are also correlated with depression and anxiety.

Even if your philosophy is “hustle now, be healthy later,” missing sleep may be having subtle and not-so-subtle effects on your performance. “Reducing sleep by as little as one and a half hours for just one night reduces daytime alertness by about one-third,” explains WebMD.

Late nights can obviously make you less alert and focused the next day, but did you know they can lessen your creativity, too? Harvard’s Division of Sleep Medicine explains that your sleeping brain is sifting through new information, strengthening connections between bits of information, and storing memories, so inadequate sleep means we may learn slower or fail to have that creative spark that combines ideas.

In other words, you may think those extra hours of work are worth it, but they might not be.

“Being tired doesn’t help your business and just adds more pressure to a pressure cooker,” says Bryan Colligan, chief visionist at SeQR Pay.

What affects sleep? 

WebMD explains the factors that can disturb your zzz’s.

Time of day. Our circadian rhythm is the 24-hour cycle of sleep and waking that our body adjusts to. When this cycle is more consistent – going to bed and waking up at around the same times – we sleep better.

Caffeine. Shots of espresso or cafés au lait work in your brain to block adenosine, a compound that stimulates fatigue. Caffeine-fueled brains will awake more often during the night, interrupting deeper sleep. WebMD recommends not drinking caffeine six hours before bed.

Alcohol. Though a little alcohol can make you drowsy, metabolizing alcohol while you’re sleeping can also make you wake up more often or sleep more lightly.

Atmosphere. The secrets to a good sleeping area are cool, dark, and quiet. Earplugs can work wonders here. If you have to get up in the middle of the night, don’t turn on bright lights – they signal to the brain that it’s time to wake up.

Stress. Stress has a whole host of effects on the body, and it’s an enemy to sleep. Most experts recommend keeping work and arguments away from the bed, which should be a relaxing sanctuary associated with sleep. That separation also helps establish a nightly ritual transitioning your body from stress to relaxation. Spend anywhere from 10 minutes to one hour reading, doing yoga, taking a bath, or other pre-sleep relaxing activities.

Some entrepreneurs recommend camomile tea or walk milk. Others swear by nut butters.

“I eat natural peanut butter on celery and water before bed to help regulate any craving I might have during the night as well as help burn calories while you sleep,” says Rob Imbeault, CEO of 10Count.

Along the way, devices like the Jawbone UP and BodyMedia FIT can help you track and measure what other factors affect your sleep.

“We’re all nerds here – run some experiments to figure out what works for you, since we have all the tools now,” says Jake Gibson, COO of NerdWallet. He used sleep gadgets to discover that wine doesn’t help him sleep, reading is better than TV before bed, and a white noise machine works wonders.

Despite the life-saving, mood-boosting, energy-lifting benefits of sleep, entrepreneurs will always skimp. And if you must skimp, two rules seem to be paramount: have a consistent sleep schedule, and use the above tips to improve the quality of your sleep. That way, you’ll be able to achieve your startup dream and enjoy a few regular dreams, too.

Coromega is offering Tech Cocktail readers a special 25 percent discount on supplements (with the coupon code TECH). Also, the first five people who sign up here will get a free omega-3 test (valued at $150) and a 90-day supply of Coromega.

Why do healthy omega-3 levels matter? Because the majority of Americans are omega-3 deficient, which means most of us are losing out on healthier minds, hearts and bodies. Coromega is a unique delivery system of delicious omega-3 fish oil that comes in a convenient, single-serve “Squeeze” – a tasty burst of goodness with two essential fatty acids, DHA and EPA. And it’s clinically proven to have 300% better absorption than regular softgels, which mean you’ll be on your way to healthy levels in no time! 

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact kira@tech.co.

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