You’re at the top of your career and looking for a performance edge. A magic bullet to help you perform better or take your business to the next level. Your success is tied to being more productive, creative, or focused.
To do this, you feel like you need more hours in the day. You end up trading your sleep for the hopes of an extra hour or two of work to squeeze out that next item on your to-do list. I know you do this because I’m guilty of it, too. Except that cutting our sleep short is the worst thing that we can do for ourselves.
Sleep expert, Dr. Matthew Walker, points out that sleeping enough can give you a 30% increase in performance. There is no other performance enhancer that will give you the kind of return on investment that sleep can.
Why you Need to Sleep More
Sleep is critical for your functioning to be at its best. Sleep helps sort out tons of mental, emotional, physiological, social and work-related effects. It’s critical to your business success to be more productive, have better focus, attention, and memory.
These factors are all directly tied to your sleep quality and quantity. As successful professionals, we can have high-stress levels or anxiety, or sometimes both. These health concerns are often accompanied by weight gain, insulin resistance increased blood pressure and increased nervous system activity.
Guess what? Sleep helps all that, too. I know you’re going to say, “but I can’t sleep more because I have too much to do.” And you’ve got it all backward. You’ll be able to get more done in less time by sleeping well, I promise. It doesn’t happen overnight but will be well worth making a few simple tweaks to your sleep habits.
Consistency is King
You’ve got systems and operations in place to keep your business on track. Why should it be any different with your sleep? Your sleep relies on two key components to operate properly- a consistent pattern (sleep drive) and light exposure (circadian rhythm).
We do a wonderful job of royally mucking these systems up by staying up late, getting up early and working on our phones and computers. Even if you try to trick yourself with blue blocker glasses, screen filters, or apps to control the light on your device, you are still training your brain to be awake when you are on your device.
To get the most out of your sleep have at least an hour of time that’s completely tech-free prior to your bedtime. Use this time to wind down with your family and form a deeper connection with some face-to-face time. At the same time, make sure that you gradually decrease your light exposure to help send the right signals to your brain that it’s time to go to sleep. Darkness should equal sleep.
Your brain also likes things to happen in consistent patterns or cycles. The more consistent you can be in your bedtime and wake time, the more you’ll program your brain to cooperate with that same schedule.
This one may take longer to reprogram, especially if you’ve been inconsistent. Stick with it for the long-term benefits. Just like you schedule your daily calendar, schedule your sleep, and plan meetings around your nightly sleep commitment.
Stop Sabotaging Yourself
There are likely a few habits that you do on a regular basis that negatively impact your sleep. Caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and sugar are at the top of that list. Caffeine, nicotine, and sugar are all very stimulating to your system and should be avoided for several hours prior to sleep.
If you are extra sensitive, you may want to avoid them altogether. Alcohol works a bit differently in that it’s actually a depressant, so it can initially help you to fall asleep. The downside is that it interferes with your sleep cycles, making you have a less restful sleep.
You also develop tolerance to it, so that one glass of wine turns into two or three to give you the same effect. Switch to non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated beverages in the few hours leading up to bedtime. If you’re up to pee several times in the night, cut back your fluid intake earlier in the evening.
End the Cycle of Restlessness
Is your brain as busy as mine? Do you lie in bed and have a million thoughts on the go? Perhaps you even wake up with a runaway train of thoughts? Lying awake in bed is just helping to reinforce a negative pattern.
Get in the habit of doing a brain-dump before bed to write down all those thoughts that have been rattling around during the day. Then, do some type of activity to calm your mind- perhaps it’s a short meditation, reading a book, or stretching your tight muscles.
When you crawl into bed, make sure that you get up if you haven’t fallen asleep in about 20 minutes. The same goes for the middle of the night. If you can’t sleep, get out of bed. The trick here is not to reward yourself for being awake. No snacks. No TV. No favorite book. Do something boring in dim light or the dark until you are sleepy enough to go back to bed.
Keep a notebook by your bed and write down any thoughts that you need to remember, but the focus should be on calming your mind so you can go back to sleep, not to get more work done.
To be more effective in your business, you’ll need to be more effective with your sleep. Take charge of your sleep and start prioritizing it today. As with hard work in any business, you’ll find that a consistent effort to sleep well will pay off in dividends. In as early as a few nights, you may notice an increase in your energy, sharper focus, and more ability to problem solve.
The best part? Your work can flow easier and you’ll get more done in less time. Are you ready to hit the hay for some extra zzzz’s?
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Photo Credit: @claudiamanas on Unsplash