3 Easy Steps for Entrepreneurs to Sleep Better
You and I both know that sleep is a biological necessity. Why then is it so easy to skimp on it? Losing sleep does far more than leave you a little drowsy. It alters the way your brain and body function. Consequently, lack of sleep can interfere with your productivity at work and your personal relationships at home. But you have the power to improve the quality and quantity of your sleep by changing a few simple habits and behaviors.
Sleep Supports Physical Health
Sleep is essential for the body to rest and recover from a day's worth of physical, mental, and emotional stress. It's during sleep that your muscles repair themselves from any daytime damage or injury.
But that repair work only takes place during the deepest sleep phases. An irregular sleep schedule or one that's cut short – less than seven hours – doesn't give your body enough time in these key phases, reducing the time spent repairing muscles. The weakness and soreness that follows open the door to potential injury.
The body also needs sleep to regulate appetite and metabolism. I know that when I'm running low on sleep it seems like no matter how much I eat, I can't get full. Not only that, some serious sugar cravings and munchies hit in the mid-afternoon.
Research has shown that lack of sleep causes the body to release more of a hunger hormone called ghrelin and less of a satiety hormone known as leptin. At the same time, your brain gets an increased runner's high from high-fat, sugary foods. No wonder those cookies in the break room are hard to resist when you're tired.
An oversensitivity to negative stimulation accompanies sleep deprivation. It's due to changes in the brain’s emotional processing center, which becomes overactive when you're tired. At the same time, the portion of the brain that typically applies logic to your emotional responses exerts less influence.
You're far more likely to argue with your spouse or overreact to changes in your work schedule when you're going on four or five hours of sleep. Your brain simply can't emotionally function with the same clarity as it normally does.
You can't change how your body reacts to sleep deprivation, but you can work to prevent sleep deprivation in the first place.
Building Healthier Sleep Habits
Healthy sleep habits help your body function at its best and put your best foot forward at work, home, and in all of your personal and professional relationships. Try to:
Set a bedtime and mean it. An established bedtime makes sure you're giving yourself enough time to get in at least seven hours of sleep. A bedtime also helps your body recognize predictable patterns and adjust the release of hormones to follow your preferred schedule.
Defend yourself with a good bedtime routine. Bedtime routines give your brain a chance to switch gears. The best part is you can customize it to your preferences. My routine always ends with a few minutes of reading before I shut out the light. However, yours may include a few minutes of meditation or a warm cup of milk. It doesn't really matter what the routine includes as long as it helps you relax.
Be serious about comfort. Physical distractions like bright lights, street noise, or even room temperatures can prevent you from falling and staying asleep. Start by taking a good look at your mattress. It should comfortably support your weight and preferred sleep style. Back and stomach sleepers generally need more support than side sleepers, for example. Your next step is to make your room as dark as possible and block out noise.
Sleep acts as the foundation of better health. Think of it as a pillar of your health alongside diet and exercise. As you make it a priority, you’ll find you have the energy to live an active, happy lifestyle.
Written by Ellie Porter, Managing Editor, SleepHelp.org