Are You Getting the Rest You Need to Perform Your Very Best?
We’ve all been there before: burning the midnight oil, surviving on a diet of caffeine and fast food, struggling to stay mission focused despite severe exhaustion and sleep deprivation. For some of us, this sentence will recall the heady days of our collegiate experience, for others this is the day in day out reality of trying to cultivate our entrepreneurial ambitions while still juggling other responsibilities such as a day job, maintaining relationships and everything else life can throw at us. The bottom line however is, if you are not consistently receiving adequate rest, you are simply not performing at your very best.
Ensuring the integrity of sleep quality is one of the most important investments an entrepreneur can make in his or her future success. And yet, across the board, sleep remains one of the areas neglected most by the busiest and most ambitious of us. While you may think that you can survive and even thrive by consistently missing out on high quality sleep, you are sadly mistaken. The best research on the subject had lead to some very stark conclusions about just how detrimental missing out on sleep can be to performance, wellness and overall health.
In the short term, a lack of high quality sleep can impact judgment, mood, ability to learn and retain information, and may increase the risk of serious accidents and injury. In the long term, chronic sleep deprivation may lead to a host of health problems including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even early mortality. There is a sufficient body of research to indicate that those who do not receive proper rest and recovery are at a much higher risk of developing negative health outcomes and the presence of disease. To achieve proper health and to function at our very best sleep needs to be a priority and not an afterthought.
For so many of us, it is a seemingly endless cycle. Life bares down on us, we struggle to push back, stress accumulates and we are drawn towards things like alcohol and other diversions to take the edge off. What is lost on so many of us is how important the quality of our sleep life is in determining how we process stress. With adequate rest, our bodies are balanced and our mind’s are fit and able to tackle the responsibilities of our lives. When we miss rest, we are more irritable and impulsive, our work suffers and we tend to put more stress on the interpersonal relationships around us.
To operate at our very best, it is important to achieve a proper energy balance. Nutrition, physical fitness, and sleep are a powerful triad that together have so much to do with our overall health, mental stability, ability to innovate and reach for the success that so many of us crave. If you want to perform like a superstar, you need to rest like one.
One of the best ways to achieve this is by ensuring that we are meeting our sleep requirements on a consistent basis. Everyone’s sleep needs will differ slightly. What is most important is that you are getting adequate sleep for your unique physiological requirements. Most of the leading science on the topic seems to indicate that consistency is extremely important in this area. Going from pulling the all nighter, to getting just a few hours here, a few hours there and then crashing for more than 12 hours when you finally can on the weekend, is not a recipe for success.
To best prepare yourself for the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur, you need to make the investment in your overall health and that means making sleep a priority and a focus in how you manage your time and resources. Look at it this way, if you are not able to get the rest you need, you are not being an effective manager. If you want to be boss, you need to think and strategize like one.
Use the following guidelines to develop a healthier and more balanced relationship with sleep, wellness and performance.
The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Sleep Hacking:
5 Tips to Supercharge Performance by Getting Better Rest
1. Consistency is Key
The more consistent you are about getting rest, the better you will perform. Consistency means choosing to go to sleep around the same time every night, whether it is a weekday, weekend or your vacation. The more you are able to do this, the more you can reinforce the natural rhythms of your body and this in turn will enhance the quality of your sleep.
Remember, when it comes to performance, quality means a lot more than quantity. If you happen to have trouble falling asleep for more than 20 minutes, get up and do something low impact but productive for 20 minutes and then try again.
2. Dietary Choices and Timing Matter
When you are getting ready to sleep, you should neither be starving nor excessively full. It is also useful to limit how much fluid you drink before bed because frequent trips to the bathroom take you out of your deeper REM cycles and this impacts the quality of your rest.
Additionally, think long and hard about whether using nicotine, caffeine and alcohol before bed is really the best choice for you. Nicotine and caffeine are both stimulants that last for hours. Even if you fall asleep after using them, the quality of your sleep will be compromised. Similarly, alcohol will make you tired initially but as it wears off it will actually take you out of the deeper and most restorative levels of sleep.
3. Make it a Routine
If you consistently do the same things before bedtime, your will send the message to your body that it is time to wind down and enter a deep state of rest and relaxation. The ritual does not matter, you could take a shower, spend some time reading or enjoy some intimate time with your partner. What matters is that the activity is relaxing and allows you to transition between the wakefulness of your normal day to day struggles and the peace and tranquility of a deep state of rest and recovery.
Do not watch excessive amounts of TV, use your computer, tablet or smartphone before bed. As tempting as it may be, doing so can severely impact the quality of your sleep. Try to cut these electronics out at least one to two hours before you try to lay down.
4. Create your Sanctuary
The more your bedroom feels like a soothing a relaxing environment, the easier it will be for you to sink into a state of complete relaxation and rejuvenation. Cut out excessive light, if you live in an urban area with plentiful street lights, this could mean making the investment in heavy duty curtains that restrict the ability of light to enter your space. Consider using a fan or other cooling device to ensure your room is stable and refreshing temperature. Most people sleep better in a cool room.
Finally, make the investment in choosing a bed, mattress, pillow, and blanket array that is personally pleasing to you. Many people find that adding some aromatic essences to their pillows such as fresh lavender can really enhance their ability to feel comfortable. The bottom line is the more you treat yourself to a soothing and relaxing environment for sleep, the easier it will you to hit those high quality Zzz’s.
5. Stay Mission Focused in the Day, Rest at Night
Napping is a somewhat controversial subject when it comes to increasing sleep quality and promoting performance. On the one hand, a short 10-30 minute nap during the middle part of the day can be just what you need to supercharge your performance in any later in the day business activities you might have. On the other, if you sleep longer than 30 minutes, you are very likely to interfere with the quality of sleep you get later at night.
Naps are useful but you shouldn’t be relying on them. If you consistently knock out for a few hours in the middle or later part of the afternoon before bed, this is a pretty good sign that your sleep habits are not as ideal as they could be. Short naps can be really useful but they shouldn’t be a crutch that you rely on. Instead focus on developing better habits to ensure you are getting the rest you need in the evening time.